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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    Alex Ovechkin tweets about tying the knot with Nastya Shubskaya

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    via Alex Ovechkin's Twitter page
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    Alex Ovechkin shared the news via his official Twitter feed that he married Nastya Shubskaya.

    His message includes a caption that translates to “This is happiness,” according to NHL.com.

    Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks indicated that the two got married during a small, private ceremony, so it might have actually happened a week or so ago.

    Here’s the Ovechkin tweet from Sunday:

    This continues a run of big news for Capitals players, with a life-changing event for Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well:

    There were some fun jokes on Twitter about the happy news, with this one possibly taking the cake:

    This summer figures to be a busy one from a hockey standpoint for Ovie, as he’s been part of various activities and will represent Russia at the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

    In case you’re wondering, Ovechkin will soon turn 31.

    Martin Jones is still pretty ‘new’ to this

    SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks stands in goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    You’d have to be an awfully harsh critic not to be impressed with what Martin Jones did last season.

    He “didn’t flinch” under the pressure of a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer described his efforts as some of the best championship round work of “all-time.”

    His signing really made the Sharks look smart. With a strong .919 career save percentage in the regular season and a fantastic .923 playoff save percentage, the 26-year-old has succeeded more or less whenever called upon.

    That brings us to the interesting part, though: there’s not a lot of tape, so to speak, on Jones as an NHL goalie.

    Small sample

    The 2015-16 season was just his third of NHL action, and he’s now at just 99 regular season appearances. That fantastic run of 24 playoff games makes up a significant chunk of his overall experience at the top level.

    Jones has excelled when tested, but if you have any concern with him, it’s just that he’s relatively inexperienced at carrying that No. 1 workload.

    He started in 65 games during the 2015-16 season, towering over his work as a Kings backup (15 appearances in 2014-15, 19 in 2013-14).

    On the bright side, the Sharks have additional evidence that he’s not just a flash in the pan.

    Strong numbers at each level

    Looking at his AHL stats and even going as far back as his WHL days, his numbers have almost always been good to downright impressive.

    It all continues the pattern of Jones looking like the real deal, but next season presents the latest test for the promising goalie.

    So far, he’s passed all of them with flying colors.

    What will Brent Burns’ new contract look like?

    SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 29:  Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at SAP Center on February 29, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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    This is part of Sharks day at PHT…

    There’s only one Brent Burns, that much is clear. Both on and off the ice, there’s no one like him.

    So, what do you pay a guy that’s always imitated, never duplicated?

    That’s the dilemma the San Jose Sharks will be faced with in the coming weeks/months.

    If you were impressed with Bruns’ 17 goals and 60 points in 2014-15, then his 27 goals and 75 points in 2015-16 was out of this world.

    Over the last three seasons, not many forwards have produced as much as Burns, let alone defensemen.

    Since being acquired by San Jose in 2011, Burns has hit double digit goals in all but one year (he scored nine in 30 games in 2012-13).

    “You know how we feel about Brent. Phenomenal year,” GM Doug Wilson said back in June. “When we acquired him it was a big piece to acquire. There’s no doubt he’s important to us. We want him. I think he loves being here. Those conversations will take place shortly.”

    Time to talk numbers…

    It sounds like Burns enjoy playing in San Jose, so him taking a bit of a discount is possible. But if we look at the closest comparable…

    Dustin Byfuglien, who is 31-years-old like Burns, signed a five-year $38 million contract with the Jets this winter. That comes out to an AAV of $7.6 million.

    Both are big, physically imposing and have put up some great numbers in the last few years.

    Over the last three seasons, Byfuglien has scored 19, 18 and 20 goals for a total of 57. Burns has scored 27, 17 and 22 for a total of 66.

    That’s not a huge difference over three years, but Byfuglien wasn’t coming off a 27-goal season and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final when he signed his contract.

    Although we haven’t really heard much regarding Burns’ contract demands, it wouldn’t be shocking for the final cap number to be in the 8 or 9 million range.

    Poll: Will the Sharks make it back to the Stanley Cup Final?

    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 25:  Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presents the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to Joe Pavelski #8 and the San Jose Sharks after their 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 25, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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    Not many people expected San Jose to be in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16, but with expectations at an all-time low, they did it.

    San Jose has put together some talented teams and before last season, they weren’t able to get over the hump. But now that they’ve gotten over the hump, expectations are back up.

    How realistic are these expectations though?

    On paper, the Sharks are still loaded. They didn’t lose much this off-season and managed to add speedster Mikkel Boedker in free agency.

    Still, when you’re dealing with a number of veterans, you never know when their production will start to dip.

    Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski are all over 30. Marleau and Thornton are 36 and 37-years-old and they’re entering the final year of their contracts.

    The Stanley Cup hangover is real. Although the Sharks didn’t win it, those veterans went four rounds and played in some grueling games along the way. Will they be in tip-top shape come October?

    On a more positive note, those veterans are surrounded by some good young players. Logan Couture has developed into a go-to guy, Tomas Hertl proved to be a difference maker at times last year, Joonas Donskoi scored some big goals in the playoffs and prospects like Mirco Mueller, Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier are on their way.

    The team also has some remarkable depth on defense, as Burns is joined by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin, Justin Braun and a few other key contributors.

    Between the pipes, Martin Jones‘ first season as a starting goaltender went pretty well.

    “A special group,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after losing in the Stanley Cup Final, per the team’s website . “But only one team can win. That doesn’t take anything away from what those guys accomplished. I don’t think anyone should ever question the leadership or the character or the will of the group of men in there. I think it’s been misplaced for a decade.

    “I would hope they answered some questions. Let’s be honest. Not many people had us making the playoffs. Not many people had us beating [the Los Angeles Kings in the first round]. On an on. I thought a lot of questions were answered by that group.”

    It won’t be easy for them to make it back to the final. They’ll have some stiff competition in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and any other team that might surprise.

    So, can this “special group” do it all over again next season?

    Time to vote!