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2 марта 2004 года.
This time, Zhitnik hopes trade winds don't blow him away - Buffalonews.com

By TIM GRAHAM

One year ago Alexei Zhitnik wanted out.

The two-time All-Star defenseman and his agent asked the Buffalo Sabres for a trade. He had enough of the bankruptcy, the lack of direction, the losing.

The 2004 trade deadline is one week away. Teams around the NHL are desperate for defensive help, and the Sabres are looking more and more like sellers.

They have lost four ugly games in a row and are on the verge of missing the playoffs for a club-record third straight season.

Zhitnik is the most obvious candidate to be traded by the Sabres. He will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Sabres would risk letting him get away for nothing if they don't deal him.

But this year Zhitnik isn't saying a peep. From all acounts, he would like to stay. Too much has changed for the better over the past 12 months to walk out now.

"If you ask any player in the league, "Do you want to win the Stanley Cup?' everybody will say, "Yes, that's my dream,' " Zhitnik said after Monday's practice in HSBC Arena. "But you can't just go bounce around the league. You want to be a part of a team that has chemistry, a team you play with for a long time.

"Our team compared to last year is a much better team. The atmosphere on the team (has) the guys playing for each other. The guys are sticking together. Last year it was so much bad stuff around us."

Agent Serge Levin said his client would prefer to retire a Sabre, and that there have been preliminary discussions about signing a long-term contract extension before Zhitnik hits the open market.

"Of course, many teams are very interested in Alex," Levin said. "But from what I understand, in talking with their ownership, they would like to have him for the rest of his career."

Zhitnik is making $3.75 million this season, and depending on what happens in the most uncertain of NHL offseasons, he could earn more money elsewhere.

The 31-year-old Ukranian, however, claimed cash isn't a priority for him at this stage of his career.

"You can't get all the money in the world," Zhitnik said. "When you get older you look for more security. I like security. I have a family. I have two kids. When you're moving somewhere it's everything new."

Zhitnik has been Buffalo's best defenseman this season. He has four goals and ranks fourth on the club with 24 assists.

He's averaging 25:24 of ice time, sixth-most in the NHL and three minutes more than the next busiest Sabre.

Other teams would love to have him.

"Players who are either going to be unrestricted or on the verge - maybe one year of being unrestricted - are being considered around the league to be traded to teams that are contenders," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. "A lot of those teams are looking for that type of player."

Regier declined to speak about specific players or trade scenarios but said he would consider moving any player given the proper circumstances.

Zhitnik stated he wasn't concerned with the possibility of being traded away for someone else's stretch run.

He would prefer to concentrate on the Sabres' dimming postseason hopes. They're nine points behind the eighth-place New York Islanders with only 17 games left.

"There were a lot of rumors last year," Zhitnik said. "It's important from a player's point of view to play hockey. You can ask to be traded and not be traded or you can want to stay on the team and be traded. Players can't control that stuff.

"You just have to take one game at a time. You can't get nervous about "Am I going to get traded, or am I going to stay here?' You can't change what management has decided is best for the organization."

In the event Zhitnik does get traded, he allowed for the possibility of re-signing with the Sabres in the summer, a la Glen Wesley. The Carolina Hurricanes dealt Wesley to the Toronto Maple Leafs at last year's deadline, but Wesley returned to the Hurricanes after the season.

"I don't believe Buffalo will trade him," Levin said.

Страничка Алексея Житника на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
 

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