Thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers, three-time 20+ goal/50+ point winger Nikolai Zherdev has returned to the National Hockey League, on a one-year contract worth $2.0 million.
Zherdev is returning after a one-year stint in the Kontinental Hockey League. He last played in the NHL for the New York Rangers, putting in one of his best performances in 2008-09 where he scored 23 goals and 35 assists while playing in all 82 contests. As a restricted free agent, the Rangers chose to qualify Zherdev at $3.25 million to retain his rights; however, after Zherdev was awarded a $3.9 million contract in arbitration they opted to walk away, likely in part because of a lacklustre playoff performance by Zherdev (7GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, –3) Not finding a team willing to meet his price in the NHL, Zherdev went to the KHL.
Now, a year later, the price has come down markedly, and Zherdev will earn just over half that arbitration award with the Flyers.
It’s a fairly low-risk gamble for the Flyers (although it does put them over the salary cap) in that the term is limited to a single year and the dollar figure isn’t especially high. Based on his last two NHL seasons, it might seem that the Flyers are getting a bargain, even given Zherdev’s weak points (defence, consistency, getting along with coaches). I don’t see it that way; I think the Flyers paid pretty much all that Zherdev is worth right at the moment.
Zherdev played for a good team last season; Mytishchi Atlant went 37-16-3, good enough for fifth in the 24-team KHL. They finished the season plus-36. Unfortunately, the top line of Sergei Mozyakin, Jiri Novotny and Jan Bulis drove most of the results up front, finishing the season a combined plus-68. In contrast, Zherdev finished the season plus-2.
But even if Zherdev didn’t have a great season, his scoring was still alright. Using Gabriel Desjardins equivalency numbers, we get the following totals over a full NHL season:
- 82GP – 17G – 34A – 51PTS
That’s about what I’d be expecting out of Zherdev if I were the Flyers.