Nikolai Zherdev: Right Place, Wrong Time?
As much as it may pain me to say this, Nikolai Zherdev is exactly what the Rangers need this season. He's a talented scorer who most importantly was a free agent this summer and could've been had for only a one year $2 million contract. Hindsight is 20/20 and Zherdev left the Big Apple with a sour taste in the mouths of those involved (including the fans) but he'd fight nicely alongside Marian Gaborik.
Zherdev may not have even crossed the mind of Glen Sather this summer. He may not have even been considered a viable option, but the Rangers would have had a much more formidable offense with Zherdev in the lineup.
The Rangers chose Alex Frolov to ride shotgun with Marian Gaborik. and with a little over 30 games into the season, it seems safe to label Frolov as a bust. When Vinny Prospal returns from injury, the odd man out could very well be Frolov who has already voiced his displeasure with his current bottom six role on the team. Luckily for the Rangers, Frolov only has a one year contract and was relatively inexpensive at $3 million. He'll be gone after this season and the Rangers will be once again searching for a complimentary scorer for Marian Gaborik.
Despite his numerous disappearing acts, Zherdev was the Rangers leading scorer with 58 points in the 2008-2009 season. He was jaw-dropping good one night and then frustratingly terrible the next. He was shouldered with the responsibility of being the Rangers goto scoring threat (which he was) on a team that severely lacked offensive talent. There were sky high expectations after the Rangers traded Fedor Tyutin for what we all hoped was a forty goal scorer in waiting. Zherdev's talent warranted those expectations, but his attitude and mental make up all but guaranteed he wouldn't meet them.
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He has the talent to be a top ten player in the NHL. He's the total package: speed, vision, size, hands, and natural goal scoring ability. But he's also lazy, uninspired, and deserving of the label 'enigmatic'. Despite his talent, he's not capable of being the number one guy on an NHL team. However, on a team where he is not the only scoring threat and isn't expected to shoulder the load on his own, he can be an a valuable asset.
After a hiatus in the KHL, Zherdev has potted eleven goals with the offensively stacked Flyers in his return to the NHL. Zherdev doesn't have a defined role with the Flyers and has found himself a healthy scratch three times this season, but he has still produced. With ten goals, he would be tied on the Rangers with Ryan Callahan for second on the team. The Rangers are starved for offensive talent and for $2 million dollars, Zherdev would have been a nice fit.
There is no single player that I can think of who is more frustrating than Zherdev. He has immense talent but he can't put it together. It's a damn shame that he doesn't seem to have the will to make it work. Even though he can be an elite scorer, the Rangers wouldn't need him to be. They would only need the 20 goals he's a lock to score. It's easy to say the Rangers should have signed Zherdev instead of Frolov this summer. I never thought I'd be writing a post advocating for Zherdev in NY Round II. But the Rangers would've been a much more formidable team had they inked him in July.
Woulda coulda shoulda..