Buffalo Sabres: Viktor Antipin expected to arrive next week to sign deal

Nov 21, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Fans enter the KeyBank Center to watch a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Calgary Flames. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Fans enter the KeyBank Center to watch a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Calgary Flames. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

Viktor Antipin has apparently turned down the Pittsburgh Penguins and is reportedly set to arrive in Western New York next week to sign a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

With the completion of the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the Buffalo Sabres are now a step closer to securing the services of Viktor Antipin. As per a new report from KHL Insider Aivis Kanlnis, the defenseman will arrive in Buffalo next week, to sign a contract.

As previously noted by WGR550‘s Brayton Wilson, Antipin will initially only be able to sign a one-year entry level contract. The deal will be for a maximum of $925,000, including bonuses.

The 24-year old is certainly an intriguing prospect, with the Sabres just one of several NHL teams who were interested in signing him. Other teams apparently included the Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins.

In fact, the Pittsburgh connection is particularly worth noting, with Russian sports writer Slava Malamud reporting that Antipin turned down the opportunity to join the Penguins. As we know, Sabres’ new General Manger Jason Botterill, was previously in the Pens’ front office.

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The storyline takes an interesting turn, with Malamud going on to write that the blue liner will not accept a demotion to Rochester. If he is not in the top 6, he will return to Russia, as per an agreement with his former team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

In theory, the Sabres would be in a position of strength, as they would have to assign Antipin to the KHL. However, the reality is they would be unable to stop him from just leaving Buffalo and returning to Russia.

With all this in mind, is the 24-year old worth all the trouble and attention? Malamud believes he has a high upside and is an upgrade over Dmitry Kulikov.

Further, scouting reports refer to Antipin’s excellent skating and strong offensive capabilities, particularly his ability to create plays. His experience on the power play could also prove to be an advantage.

On the negative side, the left-hander is considered to be on the small side for a defenseman. Depending on your source, he is listed between 5 foot 9 & 5 foot 11, while weighing around 174-175 pounds.

Regardless, Antipin is coming off a career year in the KHL, which included six goals and 18 assists in 59 games. He was even more effective in the playoffs, with seven goals and four assists in 18 appearances.

This penchant for stepping up in big moments, included scoring three goals in five goals during the Gagarin Cup Final. Although Metallurg ultimately lost, the Kazakhstan-born free agent was named Best Defenseman of the KHL Final.

While on the subject of big moments, 2017 was the third consecutive year Antipin represented Russia in the World Championships. This year he contributed four assists in 10 games, helping Russia to win the bronze medal. (They won silver and bronze in 2015 and 2016 respectively.)

Overall, this is a low-risk move by a Sabres team looking for help on the blue line, despite Antipin’s threat to return to Russia if he is not in the top 6. In any event, as noted by Die By The Blade, if he can’t beat out the likes of Taylor Fedun, Justin Falk and Josh Gorges, he doesn’t deserve to be in Buffalo anyway.

Next: How realistic is a trade for Jordan Eberle?

What are your prospects for Antipin if and when he finally signs with the Sabres? What kind of impact do you anticipate from him at the NHL level? Share your thoughts in the comments section.