Report: Nikolai Zherdev to return from Russia, sign with Flyers

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nikolaizherdev.jpgWhile fans wait to hear about what one Russian superstar will do about his future in the NHL (or KHL), word came out today that one enigmatic Russian scorer is close to returning to the NHL after spending a year away in Russia. Former first round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets and ex-New York Ranger Nikolai Zherdev is reportedly in talks to join the Philadelphia Flyers. Sarah Baicker of CSN Philly gives us the low down.

Zherdev has a reputation as a moody, inconsistent player. He’s certainly talented in generating offense, compiling a notable 99 goals and 140 assists in 365 career NHL games, but isn’t defensive-minded.

Simply put, the Flyers would strengthen on offense, but lose out on defense if he were to join the club. He could, however, significantly improve the team’s depth at wing.

The real issue would be whether the Flyers could tame Zherdev’s reported attitude – he’s been called lazy, and has even been labeled a “head case.” But at 6-2 and 200 lbs., his size and potential for offensive prowess could certainly benefit a Flyers team that could use more goal scorers.

It was mentioned here a few days ago that Zherdev was starting to talk with other NHL teams, including Buffalo and Toronto, but today’s reports about Zherdev being on the brink of signing with Philadelphia are being buoyed by a tweet like this from EuroFlyers. Meanwhile, Travis Hughes at Broad Street Hockey is getting down to the heart of the matter by getting in contact with Zherdev’s agent.

I just spoke with Zherdev’s agent, who confirmed that the Flyers are in talks with the Russian forward. Nothing is done just yet, according to him, but he said things are “close” and that “due to the time difference, we might have something done tomorrow.” They’ve talked with four or five other teams.

Competition for Zherdev is apparently stiff with Boston and Buffalo still out there as options as well as other teams for the big Russian. The interest in Zherdev seemingly comes out of nowhere as Zherdev was, indeed, disappointing in his NHL tour of duty. A lot of that could be blamed on not having a whole lot of freedom to run wild playing for both Ken Hitchcock in Columbus and the combo of Tom Renney and John Tortorella in New York. Still, Zherdev (and Scott Gomez) were the team leaders in points for the Rangers in Zherdev’s last season in the NHL as both scored 58 points for a very poor offensive Rangers team.

The one question Flyers fans may have to ask, however, is what happens to Simon Gagne should Zherdev be brought aboard? Gagne has been asked to waive his no-trade clause after all and there certainly could be room for a high-scoring winger with one year left on a contract around the league, especially to a team that might need a helping hand to reach the salary floor.  Zherdev going to Philadelphia, unless it’s a very cap-friendly rate, would certainly spell the end for Gagne in Philadelphia as the team hasn’t been at all receptive to dealing other high-priced forwards on the roster.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.