It seems that Nik Zherdev could be returning to the Rangers for next season. According to Laurie Carr of Beyond the Blueshirts, Rangers General Manager Glen Sather has spoken with Team Russia Assistant Coach Andrei Nazarov about three KHL players that the Rangers reportedly have interest in:
The Rangers do have three prospects who’s rights they currently own playing in the KHL — Ivan Baranka, Pavel Valentenko and Mikhail Pashnin — but Nazarov’s comment seems to suggest the players in question are players who’s rights the Rangers do not yet own.
The article’s author, Igor Larin, fuels speculation by including the the following (unsourced) note after Nazarov’s comment: “According to some reports, the president of the Rangers is interested in Nikolai Zherdev from Atlant.”
The Rangers offered Zherdev $3.25 million when last season ended, and Zherdev was looking for a salary in the neighborhood of $4.5 million. A neutral arbitrator settled in the middle, awarding Zherdev $3.9 million, a number that the Rangers walked away from, making Zherdev an unrestricted free agent. The Rangers read the market correctly on this one, as no one came near that asking price for the enigmatic winger. Eventually, the Zherdev came back to the Rangers, willing to play for $3.25 million, but the Rangers moved on and acquired Ales Kotalik. We all know how great that one turned out.
Zherdev is already rumored to be interested in coming back to the NHL for next season. So this is not that far fetched. With cap space severely limited, and the Rangers in desperate need of secondary scoring, a cheaper Nik Zherdev would be a good fit for this team at the right price. Considering what Zherdev has consistently put up in his career (25 goals, 60 points), a number around $3 million might work for both parties. While many fans won’t be thrilled to see this acquisition, people need to separate emotions from production. This is a great fit for the organization.