Pilut skips on Sabres by signing 2-year contract in Russia

BUFFALO, N.Y., (AP) — Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut is forgoing a chance to continue his NHL career by signing a two-year contract with Russia’s Chelyabinsk Traktor.

The signing was announced by the Kontinental Hockey League team Tuesday, and comes after Pilut had difficulty establishing a regular role over the past two years in Buffalo. The Traktor said in a release that Pilut was offered an opportunity to enjoy more playing time in Russia.

The Sabres can’t block the signing, because their season officially ended two weeks ago when the NHL approved going ahead with a 24-team expanded playoff format, which eliminated Buffalo.

Because Pilut was eligible to become a restricted free agent, the Sabres can still retain his NHL rights through the next three years by issuing him a qualifying offer.

The 24-year-old Swedish-born player spent the past two years splitting time between the Sabres and their minor-league affiliate. Pilut had no points while limited to playing 13 games with Buffalo last season under first-year coach Ralph Krueger.

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Overall, he had a goal and six points in 46 NHL career games, and 10 goals, 49 points in 67 games with AHL Rochester.

The playmaking, undersized defenseman was a highly touted free agent when he signed with Buffalo two years ago. The 5-foot-11 Pilut made the jump to the NHL following a season in which he was the Swedish Hockey League’s defenseman of the year after leading blue liners with 30 assists and 38 points.

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