Rangers Analysis: Zherdev Plans on Returning to NHL, Will Rangers Offer a Second Chance?

This is not the first Nikolai Zherdev rumor we have heard since the beginning of the offseason for the New York Rangers. In fact, just a month ago I posted an article revealing that general manager Glen Sather and Team Russia assistant coach Andrei Nazarov had met up in New Jersey, where they discussed a list of players, including the former Blueshirt in Zherdev. Of course, that meant nothing at the time. That is, until now, since we have confirmation from Chris Botta at NHL Fanhouse that the Russian winger is looking to return to North America for the 2010-11 season.

The Rangers no longer own Zherdev's rights, as those were let go when New York elected to let him walk following arbitration last August. After not finding a home elsewhere in the NHL, Nikolai made the obvious choice of heading overseas to play in his home country. Now, since he wants back, you wonder if the Rangers have renewed their interest in him and would be willing to submit an offer.

A winger is not the Rangers' biggest need right now, but offense is and we know that Zherdev can provide that. The good comes with the bad, though, and Zherdev struggled to be consistent in his last season on Broadway, which eventually led to many problems once the playoffs came along. Can the Rangers afford to deal with yet another "hot and cold" player in their lineup? It depends on the price.

Continue reading after the jump.

I have shared my views on the situation in the past; I feel like the Nik Zherdev ship has sailed. However, the thought of Marian Gaborik playing with Zherdev on his opposite wing on the first line has always seemed to intrigue me. I mean, you must admit neither Gaborik or Zherdev had much scoring support in their first year with the Rangers, but still managed to put up decent, or great in Gaborik's case, numbers.

If they had each other, combining special talent with special talent, the possibilities of that duo seem endless. Both can pass, both can shoot, and both have creativity thanks to a swift pair of hands. You stick Vinny Prospal between the two -- assuming he is re-signed -- and you have an all around solid primary offensive trio. Maybe even one of the best in the league if all the players perform to the best of their ability.

Price would be a major factor that would come into play one way or another if the Rangers showed interest. Nik was seeking something in the $4 million range last summer, which is clearly way too high for what he brings to the table. However, he may be desperate to get back into the NHL, and there is no way he can look for a contract for $4 million. If his demands are somewhere near 3 million, I would consider it, and I think Glen Sather would as well.

Zherdev's relationship with head coach John Tortorella was not the greatest, but then again, who does have a smooth relationship with Torts? It would have to be something both would have to get over and leave behind them. Either way, it looks like we will be spending the summer, once again, with Nik Zherdev in the back of our minds.

[Note by Rob Luker, 05/04/10 8:34 PM EDT ]

Just wanted to top off Nick's solid writeup here. It should be noted that A) Zherdev will be 26 years old next season where-ever he plays; meaning he will most likely put up his highest points-per-game rate (i.e. career high) as long as he plays a full season. And B) What Gaborik was to this years club is what Zherdev was to the 08-09 season. He had the highest relative +/- rating on the Rangers - and was actually ranked 20th in the league in said statistic (higher than names such as Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin, and Corey Perry). While I agree in the fact that he might not be the best fit, most winning NHL clubs nowadays have at least two very offensively-minded players, and a return of Zherdev to the Garden would give the Rangers just that on paper.

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