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.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.