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Report: Penguins connected to Sabres' defenseman on the trade market

They were very close to getting him once, this is their best chance now.

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Spring is usually the time of year where an expression along the lines of "there's something sweet in the air" would be said - but if you're a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, the end of January 2018 seems like an appropriate time to say it.

7-3-0 in their last 10, and tied in points for the second wild card spot in the league's toughest division, the Penguins have turned things around dramatically since finding themselves out of a playoff spot before their bye week.

Jim Rutherford, more and more, is going to be willing to swing for the fences as trade deadline approaches. His team is giving him that confidence that it's worth making some sacrifices for a playoff run, whereas earlier on, it was unclear if it would be the best decision to make.

On the other side of things, you have the Buffalo Sabres. There might be some usage of the aforementioned expression come spring time, but only because this wretched season is coming to a close and the draft lottery will announce their fate for the 2018 NHL entry draft, otherwise known as the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes.

Jason Botterill has some decisions of his own to make, but he's obviously headed in a different direction. Everyone who isn't named Jack Eichel is available on the market, with Evander Kane leading the way. He's all but a guarantee to be traded by February 26th.

A name that is seldom mentioned, but clearly available, is defenseman Viktor Antipin.

A report from Aivis Kalnins corroborates that fact, but it shouldn't really be any surprise, as it's been mentioned multiple times by the best reporters in the business that the Sabres are listening on everyone (again - anyone not named Eichel).

Kalnins has his finger on European player-related news, and more so on the Buffalo Sabres. He later mentions that the Penguins were one of the top teams in contention for Antipin's services this summer, but lost out to the Sabres, who seemingly presented a stronger case and more opportunity for the young defenseman.

There's therefore good reason to believe that Rutherford still has interest, and for the right price, could shake hands on a deal for the 25-year-old.

He's only suited up for 26 games, and hasn't won the favor of head coach Phil Housley. In that time, he has 5 assists. Still, he's young and new in this league, and Sergei Gonchar might be the perfect person to mentor Antipin, adding another weapon to the team's blue line.

One would imagine that the cost wouldn't be more than a late round draft pick. They've certainly diminished his value, so now would be the best time to strike.