Buffalo Sabres centre Marek Zagrapan signs deal to play in Russia

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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Centre Marek Zagrapan will play in Russia next season whether the Buffalo Sabres like it or not.

The Sabres' 2005 first-round draft pick has signed a three-year deal to play for Severstal Cherepovets of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, Zagrapan's agent, Petr Svoboda, said Tuesday.

The deal was reached even though the Sabres still have an opportunity to retain Zagrapan's rights by making him a qualifying contract offer by June 15.

Whatever the Sabres do won't matter as far as Zagrapan is concerned.

"If they make him a qualifying offer, he's still going to stay in Russia," Svoboda said. He added that the contract with Severstal includes a clause allowing Zagrapan to get out of the deal after next season.

Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was not available for comment.

Svoboda said Zagrapan elected to play in Russia because he was not happy with his progress after spending the past three seasons in the minors, and has yet to play in the NHL.

The Slovakian-born Zagrapan was selected 13th overall after enjoying a solid rookie season with Chicoutimi, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he had 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 59 games.

He's failed to develop his play-making skills in the American Hockey League, having managed 127 points (56 goals, 71 assists) in 227 career games. Zagrapan finished with a career-best 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) to finish sixth among Portland Pirates' scorers last season.

In a separate development involving Buffalo and the KHL, Sabres' prospect goalie Jhonas Enroth was selected 66th overall by Atlant Moscow in the KHL junior entry draft held Monday. By selecting Enroth, Atlant Moscow gained control of the player's rights should he elect to play in the KHL.

Enroth, who posted a 26-23-6 record in his rookie season in Portland last year, is still under contract with the Sabres, who selected him in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft.

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