Coach Hoping Zhamnov Signs Soon

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Byline: Tim Sassone Daily Herald Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS - The possibility of starting the regular season without Alexei Zhamnov in the lineup is something Blackhawks coach Craig Hartsburg doesn't want to even think about at this point.

"You know me, I'm an optimist and I hope it gets done for everybody's sake," Hartsburg said Friday. "We need him in our lineup and he needs to be here to play. I hope there's common sense on both sides and they can get it done.

"But that's the business side of the game, the dollars and cents, and there's not a lot a coach can do but wait and see."

General manager Bob Pulford said Thursday contract talks with Zhamnov and his agent, Ron Salcer, are going so badly there was a definite chance the Russian center wouldn't be signed in time for Oct. 5 opener at Washington.

If that happens the Hawks would have a major problem center, where they're already quite thin.

"It would become a bigger hole," Hartsburg said. "I think we can make do, but I just hope it doesn't drag on."

Without Zhamnov, that would make Denis Savard the Hawks' No. 1 center. Talk about turning back the clock.

"Hey, Denis is ready to play," Hartsburg said. "The first two days of scrimmages he has probably been our best player."

- Word of Alexei Zhamnov's contract situation spread quickly through the dressing room Friday.

When told Zhamnov is asking for $4.5 million, goalie Jimmy Waite responded, "Over how many years?"

Zhamnov wants $4.5 million per season even though he has never scored more than 30 goals or 72 points. …