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Sabres' Gionta says he wants to stay

OTTAWA -- Brian Gionta knows he might be entering his final two weeks or so with the Buffalo Sabres. But the team's captain the last three seasons is definitely holding out hope that's not the case.

A pending unrestricted free agent, Gionta confirmed to The Buffalo News here Tuesday that he has told the Sabres he does not want to get traded by the March 1 NHL trade deadline.

Gionta said he hasn't had any detailed discussions with General Manager Tim Murray on the situation but he and his representatives from the Bartlett Group in suburban Rochester have made their intentions known.

"It's not really been a formal conversation but the team understands our intentions," Gionta said in Canadian Tire Centre, confirming a report first issued Tuesday by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. "Absolutely, I want to stay. I've been here three years. I'd love to see this through and keep pushing in the right direction."

Heading into Tuesday's game against the Ottawa Senators, Gionta has 12 goals and 15 assists while serving as one of five players to appear in all 56 games. The Rochester-area native in the final season of a three-year, $12.75 million contract he signed with the Sabres in July, 2014. After turning 38 last month, Gionta is on pace for his best offensive season with the Sabres and has said he plans on continue playing.

The Sabres, of course, could deal Gionta to a Stanley Cup contender and then try to re-sign him on July 1 as they've done in the past with the likes of Cody McCormick and Matt Moulson. Gionta, a former 48-goal scorer with New Jersey, won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003 and would likely have plenty of interest as a bottom-6 forward from playoff teams.

The Sabres enter Tuesday's game five points out of a playoff spot but have four games prior to their bye that will likely decide Murray's plan of attack.

Murray told The News earlier this month he will closely consult with Gionta as the deadline approaches, because trading a captain is always a sensitive subject for NHL teams. Gionta has a tight no-trade clause, which allows him to only be dealt to five teams unless he gives prior approval of another club's interest.

"This week is very important as a team to see where we sit," Gionta said. "Every week is big, but especially this week. You either keep pace or you fall behind and you can't fall too far behind."

Mike Harrington: Players will ultimately make Murray's decision

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