Forward Maxim Afinogenov agreed to a reported three-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, the team avoiding what could have been an expensive salary arbitration hearing.

Terms of the deal were not immediately available, but it’s anticipated that Afinogenov will receive a big raise over the $1.086 million he made in leading the Sabres with a career-high 73 points last season. Afinogenov was scheduled to have his hearing Thursday.

“Max is one of the most exciting players in the NHL,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said. “We look forward to keeping him in Buffalo for years to come.”

Buffalo WGR-Radio reported Afinogenov’s contract was for three years.

Afinogenov’s agent, Don Meehan, did not immediately return messages.

Always among the NHL’s fastest skaters, the six-year veteran blossomed into a scoring threat, producing 22 goals — including three game-winners and 11 on the power play — and 51 assists in 77 games. Afinogenov more than doubled his production (17 goals, 14 assists) from his previous NHL season, and eclipsed his previous career high (21 goals, 19 assists) in 2001-02.

His 51 assists were the most in one season by a Buffalo player since Pat LaFontaine had that many in 1995-96.

Afinogenov’s production was slowed in Buffalo’s extended playoff run, managing just three goals and five assists in 18 games. His performance appeared affected by the loss of play-making center Tim Connolly, who missed the final 10 playoff games with a concussion.

Buffalo has one more player scheduled for arbitration, fourth-line forward Adam Mair, who made $450,000 last season. Mair’s hearing is scheduled Friday.

The Sabres feared Afinogenov’s arbitration award would continue to throw their pay-scale out of whack after co-captain Daniel Briere received a team-high $5 million contract in arbitration two weeks ago.

Buffalo, among the NHL’s surprise teams last year, reached the Eastern Conference final with a relatively modest $29 million payroll — about $10 million under the salary cap. The Sabres were eliminated in a Game 7 loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes.

Although Regier is budgeting for a payroll increase, the team is already at about $31 million prior to Afinogenov’s signing. This year’s salary cap has risen to $44 million.

The team is also awaiting an arbitration award after forward J.P. Dumont had his hearing on Monday. Buffalo has also yet to re-sign two key restricted free agents, starting goaltender Ryan Miller, who’s is coming off a 30-win season, and defenseman Dmitri Kalinin.

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