Nikolai Zherdev claims that he is now a 'two-way player'; Is water no longer wet?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nikolaizherdev.jpgDuring a conference call today, Nikolai Zherdev referred to himself as a “two-way player.” In other news from Bizarro Land, I condemn puns, hate bacon and find Madonna interesting.

All joking aside, the talented Russian winger claims that he’s improved in one of the areas that once made Ken Hitchcock and John Tortorella pitch fits. Here’s what he said about his allegedly blossoming defensive game (as well as some details about where he might land in the Flyers lineup) from NHL.com.

“I have skills, good puck control and hockey sense,” Zherdev said. “It probably would be good for me, and if coach (Peter Laviolette) makes the decision, to play on the power play. I’m changing my style and trying to play more defensive zone. I think, right now, I’m two-way player. Before, I was probably more forward … playing more of the attacking zone. The last couple seasons, I’ve been more defensive zone, too.”

That should be music to Holmgren’s ears, since the knock on Zherdev was his carelessness in the defensive end. On top of that, the Zherdev signing could very well spell the end for Simon Gagne, the top-line left wing regarded as an excellent two-way forward. ESPN.com is reporting Gagne’s agent has been allowed to speak with other teams regarding potential trades.

It’ll be interesting to see where Zherdev is inserted into the lineup at training camp. If Gagne is traded, would Zherdev assume a top-line role alongside center Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Or could he line up next to young forwards Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk on a highly offensive third line?

“I don’t pay much attention to the people who write about me about bad things or good things,” Zherdev said. “Sometimes the media has different opinions about different players. Right now my goal is to come to Philadelphia and prepare for the long hockey season.”

File Zherdev’s new-found interest in his own zone under “Believe it when I see it.”

While I have to admit that I was surprised by the interest the Flyers had in the Russian winger, he’s a fairly low risk at one-year, $2 million. I cannot help but giggle at the thought of Nikolai Zherdev: Selke Trophy winner, but if he’s even moderately committed to defense while providing a nice bit of offense he could be a great signing for the Flyers.

He’s saying the right things at the moment, at least.

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    Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

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    Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

    The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

    A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

    Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

    SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

    Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

    Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

    The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

    Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

    This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

    Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.

    ‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs for one final year in St. Louis

    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

    The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.

    “I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”

    The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.

    “This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.

    There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.

    Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.

    As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.

    On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.

    Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.

    However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.

    One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this:

    Related: Parayko’s ‘memorable’ season has extended into the playoffs

    NHL explains no suspension for Marleau, says he didn’t ‘pick’ Rust’s head

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    PITTSBURGH — Shortly after reports surfaced that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a series of tweets explaining their decision.

    Following last night’s game, Marleau said he didn’t think he’d be suspended for the hit, explaining that he “kind of let [Rust] skate into me.”

    “I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

    Marleau’s assessment was in direct contrast with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

    “It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

    As for Rust, Sullivan listed him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury following the contest. The hit knocked Rust out of last night’s game, and the Penguins haven’t began their off-day practice yet.

    More to follow…