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Waddell: Thrashers' first priority is to re-sign all-star Hossa

ATLANTA - Marian Hossa's last home game as an Atlanta Thrasher could come Wednesday night against Washington.

Don Waddell, Atlanta's general manager and interim coach, said he still hopes to re-sign the all-star forward, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and is one of the prominent names in trade speculation.

The Thrashers will not play another home game until Feb. 28, two days after the NHL's Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Hossa, who scored a goal in last month's all-star game in Atlanta, was the only player who didn't participate in the team's optional morning practice Wednesday. Waddell insisted no trade is imminent.

Waddell said he's received many calls from other executives about Hossa, but he has not participated in any formal trade talks concerning the right winger.

"I'm best friends with a lot of guys in the league the last few weeks," Waddell said. "I've told them all I have not solicited or had an offer made. I told them I don't even want to get into that at this point. Our goal has been to sign him."

Waddell said the team has "done all our homework" in preparing tentative trade offers. But he said it only makes sense to keep Hossa with the team as long as possible with the Thrashers competing in the tight Southeast Division.

Atlanta began the day third in the division, one point behind second-place Washington and two points behind Carolina.

Waddell said his options include re-signing Hossa, keeping the veteran on the team even if he remains unsigned, or trading Hossa for players who could help Atlanta this season and in the future. He said he hasn't decided when he would end attempts to re-sign Hossa.

"We haven't tied ourselves to a date," Waddell said. "Our No. 1 goal is to try to sign this player. In the meantime, we're in a big race here. He's one of our most important players. We're utilizing our players as much as we can to try to make sure we stay in contention. If you end up trading the player for a lesser player right now, it makes more sense to keep your player for as long as you can to try to establish yourself within your division."

The 29-year-old Hossa was acquired Aug. 23, 2005, in a trade that sent Dany Heatley to Ottawa. He set a career high with 100 points (43 goals, 57 assists) last season but was a post-season disappointment as the Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers in Atlanta's first playoff appearance.

Hossa has 24 goals and 25 assists this season.

Waddell said he'd be more interested in players than draft picks if he decides to deal Hossa.

"I know with all the teams I've talked to what we would be interested in," he said. "If we ever get to that point, I'm pretty confident there would be multiple teams that would be very interested in Marian."

Hossa already has turned down the Thrashers' offer for a four-year deal worth US$28 million. He has tried to avoid commenting on his contract talks with Atlanta, but he said before the all-star game his decision will be influenced by his confidence in the Thrashers' ability to remain competitive.

"It's not about money," Hossa said. "I just want to make sure I do the right decision. When I sign for long term, I don't want to sign and then we're not winning."



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