BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Buffalo Sabres defenseman Alexei Zhitnik on Tuesday signed a one-year contract with the team for $1.5 million, about $500,000 less than he was asking.

Zhitnik, who turns 25 on Friday, had been holding out for the last month in a contract dispute. He said two weeks ago he would request a trade if he was not paid at least $2 million a season.

Zhitnik was one of Buffalo's most improved players last season and helped the Sabres win the Northeast Division. He had seven goals and 28 assists and was on both the power-play and penalty-killing units.

Zhitnik had been skating on his own at one of the Sabres' practice facilities with Michael Peca. Peca, named the top defensive forward last season, remained unsigned.

Zhitnik did not play against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in the Sabres' home opener. He is expected to be ready Thursday night against the Washington Capitals.