By now you’ve probably heard the rumbling that Nikolai Zherdev has expressed interest in, or at least has not squelched the rumors about, a potential signing in Winnipeg. Here is a recent quote from Zherdev about the possibility of playing in Winnipeg:
“The weather is not a priority to me. The most important thing is to get a good role on the team, a good coach and a good contract. Everything related to climate and geography doesn’t basically mean anything.”
“I met with Vityaz GM Alexei Zhamnov a little while ago, he played three years in Winnipeg. He said it’s very cold and a lot of snow there in the winter, which just makes it an ideal place for hockey. Great!”
“Manitoba doesn’t scare me. I wasn’t born in Africa afterall.”
Zherdev spent 4 seasons with Columbus and then bounced around from the Rangers, to the KHL, and then back to the NHL with Philly last year. He is just entering what should be the prime of his career at age 26.
Why You Might Not Want Him
enigma (noun): something puzzling, mysterious or inexplicable; a riddle, or a difficult problem
diva (noun): a person who considers herself (or by extension himself) much more important than others, has high expectations of others and becomes angry when such personal standards or demands are not met
All joking aside, the biggest question mark with Zherdev is one of character. It’s been said that he’s a bad locker room guy who is not very coachable. It’s a bit disconcerting to consider what kind of influence he might be on our other young players, particularly guys like Kane and Burmistrov. Like most crafty stickhandlers, Zherdev has been accused of holding onto the puck too long and turning the puck over at inopportune times. His level of buy-in to the team concept is often low. He’s one of those guys that marches to the beat of his own drum, which is not exactly a good thing for a team that is supposed to be built on character.
Another reason Chevy might want to steer clear of Zherdev is that he would muddy the water for the bottom 6 even more and he would take away a spot that one of the young guys might be able to step into (think Gregoire or Cormier).
Why You Might Want Him
First off, from a risk/reward standpoint it doesn’t get much more attractive than this. To get a guy like Zherdev on a short-term contract at a modest price offers huge upside. We’re talking about a guy that is capable of putting up over 30 goals and 60 points for about $2M. Value-wise, it would be a home run if Zherdev approached anywhere near those numbers. The Jets are lacking in bona fide top 6 talent and overall offensive depth and Zherdev could go a long way towards remedying those deficiencies. Imagine what losing 2 key offensive guys to injury would do to the Jets current line-up. SCARY!
Zherdev had a bit of a rough year in Philly last year, but he wasn’t really a match there. He played very limited minutes and had issues with Laviolette (or vice versa depending on whom you believe). If you go back further than last year though, he had a great final year in Columbus (61 points) and a good year with the Rangers as well (58 points). Ignoring the year in the KHL, he would arguably still be a Ranger if the relationship didn’t sour with a generous arbitration hearing in Zherdev’s favor in the summer of 2009.
Speaking as a former fan of the Blue Jackets, Zherdev would be an exciting guy to watch night in and night out. He possesses a level of skill that is in very short supply in the NHL. We are talking ELITE puck handling.
After all that, if you are still not sold, how about we approach this purely from an asset management perspective. There would be nothing stopping Chevy from signing Zherdev to play for a few months and then off-loading him at the trade deadline for a 2nd round draft pick or something in that range. Not too shabby in terms of manufacturing something from nothing!
I know Chevy and co. have been adamant that they are as interested in a player’s character as much as their on-ice ability, but in this case it’s worth the risk in my opinion. The character issues do trouble me, but I think with Zherdev it’s more an issue of him being a little reclusive than it is him being an actual disruptive force in the locker room. Plus, when you consider the fact that Claude Noel is already familiar with Zherdev from his time in Columbus, I think the risk is manageable.
Zherdev can be a very effective player when he wants to be. We just need Noel to light a fire under him. Make it happen Chevy!