Fresh off of winning a bronze medal with Russia at the World Championship last weekend, defenseman Victor Antipin has agreed to a one-year, entry-level deal with the Buffalo Sabres.
Antipin, 24, scored four assists at the tournament, logging major minutes for a Russian team that only lost twice in 10 games. He's coming off of a season in which he scored a career-high 24 points (6+18) in 59 regular-season games for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
On Wednesday, Antipin was named to the KHL's All-Star team for the 2016-17 season.
Antipin built on that campaign in the postseason, leading all KHL defensemen with seven goals while averaging 24:14 of ice time in 18 contests. He helped lead Magnitogorsk to the Gagarin Cup finals, where his team fell to Saint Petersburg in five games.
Even in spite of the outcome, Antipin scored three goals and recorded eight blocked shots en route to being named the series' top defenseman.
Highlights from that series show Antipin's ability to contribute on offense in a multitude of ways. He earned his first goal of the series on the power play in Game 1 with a one-time shot across the goalie from his strong side:
In Game 4 he scored from his off side, this time snapping a quick wrister from in tight:
In Game 5, Antipin joined the rush for his third goal, shooting from the half wall and beating the goalie over the shoulder.
Later in that same game, with Magnitogorsk desperately pushing for the tying goal to keep their season alive, here's Antipin making a nifty pass through a crowd down around the net:
Antipin has also been praised for his ability to execute the breakout and quickly move the puck up the ice. Here's one example of him springing a teammate free with a stretch pass through the neutral zone:
A complete highlight video from last season can be found here.
While his skillset does suggest the potential for Antipin to eventually contribute on the power play, the addition at the very least adds depth at an area of need: the left side of the defense. As of right now, the Sabres have three left-shot defensemen who were regulars this past season under contract for 2017-18: Jake McCabe, Josh Gorges and Justin Falk. Dmitry Kulikov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"To me, he's the type of player that this organization needs to find a way to bring more in," Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said in an appearance on The Instigators on Tuesday. "We've got to improve our defense around here, got to improve the puck-moving ability of it, and I think it was a great job by Tim Murray and his staff to look at these different things."
Brendan Guhle, who had an impressive three-game stint for the Sabres this past season, figures to have a chance to make the team out camp, while Brady Austin - a restricted free agent this summer - held his own during his five-game stint with the Sabres as well.
Once camp rolls around in September, we'll see how Antipin fits into that mix.
A few more things to know
He's a two-time KHL champion
While his Magnitogorsk team came up short in the Gagarin Cup finals this season, Antipin already has two championships under his belt. He led all defensemen in playoff goals on his way to a title in 2014, and led all players with 35 blocked shots during the postseason en route to a championship last season.
He has plenty of experience on the international stage
Antipin has now played in three World Championships, winning a silver medal in 2015 and bronze in each of the past two tournaments. He also won silver with Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship.
He's a good sportsman
Antipin won the KHL's Gentleman Award for the 2014-15 season, a campaign in which he only accumulated four penalty minutes in 54 games.