UPDATE: Oilers sign Russian defenseman Anton Belov


According to twitter, the Penguins are close to signing a 26 year old veteran of the Russian KHL, defenseman Anton Belov.

UPDATE: Well, much ado about nothing, as the player has chosen to sign with the Edmonton Oilers. Carry on, nothing to see here.

Per the twitters, it looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins may be on the verge of adding to their team for next season:

Chesnokov is highly plugged in and a reliable source, and if he is willing to name the Pens name, that's good enough for us to go on as a pretty solid rumor.

This could be a mystery. Could he be the next Janne Pesonen or Vladimir Vujtek - an accomplished European player that comes to North America not to make an impact in the NHL? Or just a late-bloomer that could be a valauble add?

What we do know from a quick search is Belov is 26 years old, undrafted to the NHL, and has played for Avangard Omsk for the past five seasons in the KHL, where he was the team's leading defensive scorer (9 goals, 17 assists) this season. He's also listed at 6'3, 185, which may or may not be entirely accurate, but seems like he has some size.

He also played for Team Russia in the World Championships earlier this month (see above for a picture with ex-Penguin Tomas Surovy making an appearance) so it seems like Belov is regarded enough to be on the map at least somewhat in the hockey world.

Assuming the Penguins sign him, time will tell what kind of impact he may have. I won't pretend to analyze his game but a team doesn't usually sign a 26 year old player from Russia unless they intend to give him a really good chance of making the NHL roster. And the player probably isn't going to come to ride buses in the AHL, either.

From the Pens current team, they have six defensemen under contract next season (Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Matt Niskanen, Simon Despres and Deryk Engelland) with current roster players Mark Eaton and Douglas Murray set to become unrestricted free agents and Robert Bortuzzo becoming a restricted free agent. Down on the farm they have Brian Dumuolin, who's had a pretty solid first pro year and a bunch of untested players. So they could certainly use the depth that Belov could provide, and as of now (assuming Engelland is your #7 defenseman) they do have a spot on the opening night lineup to fill.

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