I commented the other day that Nikolay Zherdev doesn’t seem to be clicking with the rest of the Flyers. I made a modest suggestion that Bill Guerin might be a better fit than Zherdev, and commenter “mugzybrown” pointed out that Zherdev’s pure goal scoring abilities are worth keeping around over a player like Guerin, who hadn’t been given any substantial looks by any other team (and has since retired, as of Monday). I thought it’d be worth discussing the pros and cons of keeping Zherdev with the orange and black.
As “mugzybrown” pointed out, Zherdev has ridiculous puck handling abilities. There aren’t many Flyers who could go one on one with a goalie and almost be guaranteed to score. Unfortunately, his individualistic style of play has hurt his ability to gel with potential line-mates.
Coach Peter Laviolette benched Zherdev earlier in the season for a perceived lack of dedication to completing checks and supporting teammates. When he was able to get back into the line-up thanks to a timely suspension to Danny Briere, Zherdev was much more aggressive and was able to notch a few goals. In recent weeks, though, the improved play of James Van Riemsdyk and Nodl has pushed him off of a line with Mike Richards and he hasn’t formed any substantial chemistry with Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter to warrant a spot over Darroll Powe.
All that’s left is a fourth line with Blair Betts and Jody Shelley. If Dan Carcillo replaced Shelley, there’s a chance that the fourth line could be more potent offensively, but who knows by how much.
Zherdev does supply offensive insurance in the event of injuries, which haven’t plagued the Flyers yet but are bound to as the season progresses. I get the feeling that Zherdev shows up more often when he feels needed than when he feels like he’s being shoe-horned in.
On a one year, $2-million contract, I have very strong doubts that Zherdev will be here next year. He has too much talent to not be a top six player on another team, whether that is in the NHL or the KHL. His continued presence ultimately depends on whether you think he’d be the difference maker in the 2010-2011 season.
If Zherdev were to be moved, the immediate benefit would be that his $2 million comes off the books. For a very salary cap-strapped team like the Flyers, every dollar matters, especially when you consider the fact that goaltender Michael Leighton will be back on the books in a week. Zherdev would still need to be replaced, whether that’s Phantom Eric Wellwood or another player in a trade, so there will still be some salary coming back.
Would Eric Wellwood really replace the talent of Zherdev? Would any other Phantom? Probably not this season. I think there is definitely some trade value for Zherdev, and the Flyers wouldn’t have to be hosed the way the Detroit was in the Ville Leino for Ole-Kristian Toleffson and a 5th round draft pick trade.
General manager Paul Holmgren just needs to dangle him in front of teams with struggling offense that have picks and prospects to offer. In particular, the Los Angeles Kings come to mind, as they have multiple connections to the Flyers organization, are heavily expected to make the playoffs, and currently sit 17th in the league in scoring. The Kings have continually missed the boat when it comes to big free agent signings and trades, having lost Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils (although they have to be sighing in relief based on that joke of a player) and Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche. Bringing in a player like Zherdev would greatly boost the power of their offense as well as help general manager Dean Lombardi keep his job.
The Flyers are currently jockeying for first place in the NHL. There is no need to make any drastic decisions with the roster. That said, it certainly couldn’t hurt for the Flyers to consider alternative options as the season progresses when it comes to their shy Russian comrade.