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.