As most of us Nik Zherdev's arbitration hearing will be held tomorrow (July 31), but what is uncertain is what Zherdev's next season salary will be. Zherdev seems to believe he will command around 4 million, while Glen (the Overlord) Sather thinks Zherdev is worth around 3.25 million. The results of the hearing will, most likely, determine if Zherdev is signed by the team or if Sather walks away. But one question remains: are the Rangers REALLY that much better with Zherdev?
Here are the reasons why. Zherdev is a young, offensively gifted forward. He's only 24 and will turn 25 in November. He's had 2 very similar seasons in a row where he's scored over 22 goals and had 35 assists, so its safe to say he's either going to stay at that ~60 point level, or hopefully increase his production. Zherdev was also one a a select few Rangers that were above 0 in their +/- rating. Zherdev was a +6, while star players like Chris Drury was a -8 and defenseman Michal Rozsival was a -7. Zherdev is a gifted forward, who no matter what will impact this team.
Here's the reason why they aren't that much better. Zherdev remains to be an enigma. He's the next Alexi Kovalev. Zherdev also had (in 21 GP under Torts) 13 points and a +4 rating. Not bad right? Problem is those points came in bunches. He's score a bunch in 2 or 3 games, then disappear for a bunch. Zherdev was held to one point for the last 7 regular season games, as well as pointless all 7 of our postseason games. That's a 14 game streak with scoring one point. And that stretch is where the Rangers had success and Torts thrived. To bring up that scoreless postseason again, even Lauri Korpikoski netted 2 points.
Well both arguments are compelling. Let's take a look up at what the lineups would be with or without Zherdev (offensively not the defensive pairings.) These are all theoretical by the way.
Wow. Lisin on the fourth line because of an abundance of RWers. Zherdev creates a little bit of a logjam, but his talent is a must for this team. I could definitely see this team be a lot more offensively minded, and easily outscore last year's team. It Lisin is the headcase Phoenix says he was, we could see Voros crack the lineup again, and we all know that means the reuniting of the Playstation Line! For all of you who don't know the Playstation Line consists of Voros-Dubinsky-Zherdev who were formed after Voros put himself with Dubinsky while playing Playstation one day. The next day Tom Renney formed this line and they were very hot in the beginning of the season.
What does this lineup look like without Zherdev though?
Grachev is a LW and if he has a great camp will earn a roster spot. This lineup removes the logjam at RW, and can allow Lisin and Grachev to flip-flop to help with either of their developments. The question remains is this lineup worse off or better off? I can't answer because there are too many questions with chemistry (the perennial question), Torts' system (I did not follow Tampa Bay enough to know it too well), and health issues. So I leave it up to you all the readers: Is Zherdev THAT important to this team?