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Wisniewski expresses desire to stay with Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- James Wisniewski said his goal is to help the Columbus Blue Jackets in their desperate push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that his desire to do so should not be in doubt.

The 31-year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch at the New York Rangers on Sunday because he said management was unhappy with his play.

Wisniewski leads Blue Jackets defensemen and is fourth on the team with 27 points.

"If you're going to question my effort then there's something wrong with whoever's judging my effort because I don't think that's the case," he said. "No way you can ever question my effort. I think it's performance based."

The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday that the Blue Jackets are looking to trade Wisniewski and that he has a modified a no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to list 10 teams to which he would not approve a trade.

He did not directly address that when talking to the media Tuesday but said he has not initiated talks to leave the Blue Jackets.

"As of now, I haven't really any time wanted to be traded," he said. "I've always wanted to be a Columbus Blue Jacket. I love it here. As of right now I'm a Columbus Blue Jacket. I come here trying to win hockey games."

Wisniewski is in the fourth year of a six-year $33 million contract that will pay him $5 million in 2015-16 and $3 million in 2016-17.

The NHL Trade Deadline is March 2 at 3 p.m. ET and it's a source of conversation in locker rooms around the League.

"It's the big elephant in the room so there's no sense trying to avoid it," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "It's inevitable. Something's going to happen or usually going to happen in a situation like we are in."

Columbus coach Todd Richards doesn't think the reports about Wisniewski and others are a distraction to his players.

"I don't sense the mood has changed," he said. "Our focus is on playing hockey games, where it should be."

Veteran Columbus center Mark Letestu, a subject of rumors because he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, said trade talk is not off limits to his teammates as far as he's concerned.

"There is chatter but I wouldn't say it's the main topic of conversation," he said. "It comes up. Guys that don't want to talk about it will stay away from it. If [a trade] comes about, it's part of life, part of the business. You accept it. It's what you signed up for."

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