ISLANDERS SIGN D ALEXEI ZHITNIK TO 4-YEAR DEAL
The Islanders have signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Alexei Zhitnik to a four-year contract.
"Alexei is a perfect fit for us," said Islanders general manager Mike Milbury. "He's one of the best two-way defensemen in the game and he's a highly-respected player. He's going to play big minutes for us in all situations."
The 32-year old Zhitnik was named to the NHL All-Star Game twice (1999, 2002) in his nine-plus seasons with the Buffalo Sabres from 1995-2004. He has been to the Stanley Cup Final with Buffalo (1999) and as a rookie with Los Angeles (1993). In the 2003-04 season with the Sabres, Zhitnik had four goals and 24 assists in 64 games, along with 102 penalty minutes. He played last year with Kazan Ak-Bars of the Russian Hockey League, going 1-8-9 in 23 games.
"The Islanders were at the top of my list of teams I wanted to play for," Zhitnik said this evening. "I spoke with Mike Milbury and Coach Stirling and they told me what's expected of me. I'm very happy to be an Islander.
"I've played in the Eastern Conference for a decade and know what it takes to win," Zhitnik continued. "The Islanders have been a playoff team the last few years and now I'm hopeful I can take us to the next level. The playoffs have always been when I have played my best hockey."
The 5-11, 210-pound Zhitnik was originally selected by Los Angeles in the fourth round of the 1991 draft. The Kiev native has played in 882 NHL games and is 81-315-396. He was also a member of the Gold Medal-winning Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Olympics, Silver Medal-winning Team Russia at the 1998 Winter Olympics and Team Russia at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
"I've been an admirer of Zhitnik's for a while," said Islanders pro scouting director Ken Morrow. "He's a top-two defenseman who excels in all zones and in every facet of the game. Alexei is going to be a very effective player for us."