Rangers Analysis: Rangers Interested in Zherdev? Again?

Giving credit where credit is due, Laurie Carr of Beyond the Blueshirts did a fantastic job unraveling this story, having to "decode" a Russian article that has some details on the New York Rangers off-season plans. So remember the entire Nikolai Zherdev saga that dragged out until late July, early August last summer? When the Blueshirts elected to walk away from the enigmatic winger's rights, as fans, we all felt that it was the end of "Nikki Z's" tenure here in New York. However, what you are about to read from Laurie suggests otherwise, and possibly implies that we may be hearing more and more of Zherdev's name as we approach the 2010-11 season.

So before I present a portion of Laurie's story to you, allow me to set the stage. The Rangers faced the New Jersey Devils a little over a week ago in Newark, New Jersey at the Prudential Center. At the time of the game, newly appointed Team Russia assistant coach Andrei Nazarov was also in Newark. Rangers General Manager Glen Sather reportedly met with Nazarov, and on that note, I pass you on to Laurie, below.

In an interview in Sport Express, published Monday, Nazarov revealed that New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather asked him for his opinion on three players from the KHL which he claims the Rangers are interested in. "After the game in Newark I had a long conversation with the President of the Rangers, founder of the Edmonton dynasty of the 1980s, Glen Sather," Nazarov shared. "He asked my expert opinion on three hockey players from the KHL which the Rangers seek to acquire."

Prompted to reveal the identities of those players, Nazarov refused. "I’m sorry, but Sather insisted that I keep their names secret," the veteran of 571 NHL games and current coach of KHL club Traktor Chelyabinsk replied.

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."

More after the jump.

At the conclusion of the last season, the Rangers offered a 1-year/$3.2 million contract to Zherdev, which his agent and he argued was not as much as they felt Zherdev should be valued at. They were seeking something in the $4 million range, and after arbitration, the arbitrator settled about in the middle at $3.9 million. Much to the surprise of many, the Blueshirts walked away and moved on.

In 82 games played with the Rangers last season, Zherdev recorded 23 goals and 35 assists for 58 points. Let's be honest here, those were decent stats and had Nikolai near the top of the scoresheet for the season. However, the price he was seeking was far too expensive for what he brings, and as we know, the Rangers have far too many of those contracts already.

My standpoint on the situation at the time, and still now, was that Sather should have agreed to the terms granted at arbitration, and then did his best to trade Nik and get a return. There were several teams that were supposedly interested in Zherdev, so the Rangers likely would have had options. However, they chose to go down a different road and just move on.

We shall see what comes of this. The Rangers did not want any part of Zherdev if he was to be paid more than what they wanted, and I think if Zherdev does attempt to return to the National Hockey League like several reports have claimed, he will be looking for something around $3.5 million. In my opinion, this shipped has sailed, and the Blueshirts should not put themselves through what they did last summer with Nikolai Zherdev.

Read the rest of Laurie's Article