Despite prior rumors that the Atlanta Thrashers would keep Alexei Zhitnik and the final $3.5 million year on his contract, the fact that the 15 year veteran defenseman cleared waivers on Monday speaks quite to the contrary. Zhit had the worst full offensive season of his career notching 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) on 65 games. The 8 points were a 30 point dropoff from the prior season when he split time between the Isles, Flyers and Thrashers. Now a UFA, the NHL future of this once elite d-man is surely in question.
Originially drafted in the 4th Round, 81st overall of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, Zhitnik morphed into one of the league's elite defensemen in the mid-1990s as he rose to prominence with the Buffalo Sabres. Zhitnik has played in 1,085 games notching 96 goals and 385 assists for 471 points. As stated, he has played for the Kings, Sabres, Isles, Flyers and Thrashers.
With the Free Agency market opening tomorrow, we will keep a close watch on where Zhitnik ends up in the coming days.