Maine Hockey Journal

Zagrapan leaves Sabres organization for Russia

Courtesy of Southern Maine Digital Imaging

Courtesy of Southern Maine Digital Imaging

Portland, ME – In a surprising, but not really, move, former Pirates’ forward Marek Zagrapan has signed a two-year deal with the Russian club Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL.

Despite struggling in the early part of the season, Zagrapan really excelled in the second half of the season under Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen. In 80 games – one of only three players to play in every game during the season including playoffs – he scored 21 goals, 28 assists for 49 points. All career highs for the 22 year old native of Presov, Slovakia.

Zagrapan was drafted in the first round (#13 overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, playing all three seasons in the minor leagues which may have had some bearing on his decision to play in Russia for at least the 2009-’10 season. He has an out in his contract with Severstal to come back to North America, if he chooses too.

“There is the possibility of returning back to (North America), but (Agent) Petr (Svoboda) told me that at least one year in the KHL will help me,” said Zagrapan in Dennik Sport, a Slovakian sports paper. “Both of us were particularly concerned getting into a new contract (with Buffalo). I feel I need a new way to get into the NHL.”

Zagrapan is a restricted free agent this year after his entry-level contract expired. The Sabres have the option of offering him a qualifying offer on June 15th, at which point the Sabres will hold on to his North American rights for at least one season or they can walk away and he would become an unrestricted free agent.

Zagrapan is the third player from last year’s team to leave for Europe as Tyler Bouck, Colin Murphy signed with German clubs for the 2009-’10 season.

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