5:12 PM: The contract will run until the 2025-26 NHL season, paying Novikov $867.5K in the NHL, and $80K in the AHL. Due to the signing bonus of $92.5K each year, the AAV under the contract will be $925K each season (Tweet Link).
3:29 PM: In a busy morning out of the NHL’s Atlantic Division, the Buffalo Sabres have joined the newswire, announcing they have signed defenseman Nikita Novikov to an entry-level contract. Novikov recently wrapped up his second season with the KHL’s Dynamo Moskva.
The Sabres originally drafted Novikov at 188th overall during the 2021 NHL Draft. Although drafted comparatively low to other top prospects around the league, the main reason for his fall was doubts as to whether he would ever sign in the NHL. Playing in 94 games in Russia’s top professional league, he ranks fourth all-time in games played for players that have yet to turn 20 years old.
In the KHL, Novikov’s bread and butter was almost solely on the defensive side of the puck, adding a gritty style of play to the back end, a factor that many teams are looking for out of their defenseman. Buffalo’s Director of Player Development, Adam Mair, was quoted saying, “He’s big, he’s smart with the puck, and he has a very gritty style to his play. When you watch the playoffs now, especially in the Cup Final, you see that – defensemen who are big and mean around the net, they’re hard to get through.”
As the Sabres look to improve to the point of returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs, adding players like Novikov should considerably help the ailments that held them back this season. Part of the problem rests on the shoulders of their goaltending, but the team in front of them played a part too, as Buffalo finished 26th in the NHL in GA/G this year. Although their goal-scoring ability was able to keep the team afloat seemingly to the very end of the playoff race, don’t expect this to be the last move the Sabres make in an effort to keep the puck out of their net.