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The former pro hockey player imprisoned in a murder-for-hire plot targeting his Kingston, Ont., agent has taken a significant step toward freedom.

The Kingston Whig-Standard reports Mike Danton has been transferred to minimum-security Pittsburgh Institution in Kingston.

Inmates are moved to minimum-security prisons as preparation for release into the community either on parole or through automatic release after serving two-thirds of the sentence.

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The newspaper says Danton was moved to Pittsburgh after his case was reviewed at the federal assessment unit inside Millhaven Institution.

Danton was transferred to Canada on March 19 to complete his sentence, after he had served a little more than four years in prison in the United States.

He was playing for the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League when he was sentenced in November 2004 to 7 1/2 years in prison.

He pleaded guilty to offering a hitman $10,000 to kill David Frost, his former junior hockey coach, mentor and player agent.

The hitman was a police informant.

Danton's U.S. sentence translated into a six-year, two-month, two-week sentence in Canada for conspiracy to commit murder.

He was eligible to seek full parole as soon as he arrived in Canada.

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Officials with Corrections Canada and the National Parole Board have said previously that it could take several months for Danton to be fully assessed and for reports to be prepared that are necessary before officials can make a decision on release.

The parole board often requires inmates to spend time in minimum- security prisons before it will consider release.

Danton's transfer to Pittsburgh means that he is considered a low threat to escape and a low risk to public safety in the event he escapes.

Pittsburgh does not have any armed guards or fences. The roughly 200 inmates at the prison can simply walk away at any time.

The board will automatically schedule a hearing but Danton could choose to waive it and stay in prison.

In that case, he likely would be freed at his statutory release date of June 11, 2010.

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Danton, a native of Brampton, Ont., played junior hockey in Deseronto, Ont., in the mid 1990s, when Frost coached the team.

In November last year, Frost, who lives in Battersea, Ont., was acquitted on charges of sexual exploitation. He was accused of orchestrating and joining sex parties involving his teenage players and young girls.

The judge said Frost was "loud, vulgar, offensive, aggressive, abrasive and intimidating" but he said there were too many problems with the testimony of female witnesses to convict him of the sex crimes.

Danton spent parts of three seasons playing for the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils.

In 87 career NHL games, he had nine goals, five assists and 182 penalty minutes.

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