The Buffalo Sabres agreed to contract terms with Miroslav Satan, their leading point-scorer last year, but they have a more pressing need -- Alexei Zhitnik.
"Where's he going to fit in?" Sabres forward Rob Ray asked about Satan.
Satan, 23, signed a one-year deal for a reported $850,000. The 6-foot-1 left wing produced last season, scoring 22 goals and adding 24 assists.
"Miroslav is a guy that's going to score goals for us," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "He's a young player still learning how to pay the price shift in and shift out. The one thing that bothered me was his competitiveness game in and game out."
Satan enters his fourth NHL campaign, after playing most of his first two seasons with Edmonton. He has played 217 games in his career, scoring 65 goals.
Three Sabres players remain unsigned, including Zhitnik, the team's top defenseman, and last season's leading goal scorer, Donald Audette.
Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier said Thursday that he had not met with Zhitnik and his agent Thursday, but was hoping to do so. Zhitnik flew into Buffalo Tuesday.
"I think it's just as difficult to be missing a guy like Alexei, who anchors your defense, as it is to be missing a big goal-scorer," Sabres winger Geoff Sanderson said. "We really notice him not being out there. He's a good two-way defenseman and being a team that struggles scoring, we need his offense."
Zhitnik scored 15 goals and added 30 assists last season. He has registered over 35 points in all five of his injury-free seasons.
It's always tough to have unsigned players, but you look at the league and there's almost a record number of holdouts," Buffalo captain Michael Peca said. "The word is that we're going to get Zhitnik back before the start of the regular season. We're certainly hoping that happens, because he's a big part of both our defense and our offense."
Buffalo signed 35-year-old veteran defenseman James Patrick Wednesday. Patrick, an unrestricted free agent, played the past four-plus seasons with Calgary who provides leadership and depth.
"He's a good, quality defenseman that will help our team and give us some depth," Ruff said. "You can only play so many kids in the lineup. James is an excellent penalty-killer."
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