Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nikolai Zherdev, Blue Jackets Still Far Apart

Nikolai Zherdev

Earlier this month, I had posted a link to one of several Russian reports saying that Nikolai Zherdev had signed an insurance contract with Khimik of the Russian Super League, and was planning to begin the season in Russia if his contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets didn't work out:

As the Columbus Blue Jackets work to resign their 21-year old restricted free agent right winger, Nikolai Zherdev, reports started coming from Russia two weeks ago that Zherdev, a 27-goal-scorer for the Blue Jackets last season, had signed an "insurance" contract with Khimik Voskresensk of the Russian Super League.

This is the same thing that Ilya Kovalchuk did last season, signing with Khimik and playing in Russia for the first month of the season-- even leading the RSL in goals (8) before leaving for the NHL once he signed with Atlanta in early October.

Today, the ever-busy Columbus Dispatch ran a story indicating that Zherdev's negotiations with the Blue Jackets could drag on for some time. With the Russian Super League season starting on Sept. 7th, this could mean that Zherdev could start the season in Russia if the Blue Jackets don't sign him soon...

If the Columbus Blue Jackets have trouble getting left winger Nikolai Zherdev out of Russia this fall, it won't be the Russian Hockey Federation's fault this time.

Zherdev is a restricted free agent, and it seems his agent, Rolland Hedges, and the Blue Jackets are bracing for negotiations that could take most of the summer and may stretch into training camp in September.

Hedges confirmed yesterday that Zherdev has signed a contract with Khimik Voskresensk of the Russian Superleague. He's playing with the club in a tournament in Finland.

"Nikolai's first objective is to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets," Hedges said. "If he's not able to do that because of a contract or budget situation, this way he has a place to play."

Zherdev will spend the entire season in Russia if he doesn't sign with the Blue Jackets by Oct. 5.

"I'm not worried about it," Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLean said. "We'll attempt to sign him, but if we don't, we move on and he goes back to Russia for a year. There's no doubt we'd like to get him signed, though. We'll see."

The Jackets have offered Zherdev a one-year, $994,000 contract, his qualifying offer, as well as a two-year contract worth "substantially more money," MacLean said. The Zherdev camp is looking for a long-term deal for at least three years, preferably four.

Why are the Blue Jackets reluctant to sign Zherdev to a long-term contract?

"He has lots to prove yet," MacLean said, "both on and off the ice. We're not prepared to pay a premium to put him on a long-term deal."

The Blue Jackets were not pleased with Zherdev's conditioning in the early part of last season. Nor have they been pleased with his efforts to learn English, which would help him better communicate in the dressing room and on the ice.

MacLean and Hedges stressed that talks have been amiable. Zherdev's signing with a Russian club is not that unusual. Last year, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk signed with Khimik Voskresensk before striking a last-minute deal with the Thrashers.

Zherdev, 21, was second on the Blue Jackets last season with 27 goals and 54 points, and third with 10 power-play goals.

Zherdev with CSKA (Central Army)

Three years ago, Zherdev touched off an international hockey incident when he left Russia without permission from his club, CSKA Moscow, to play with the Blue Jackets. The Russian Federation tried to force Zherdev's return, but an international arbitrator ruled in favor of the Blue Jackets and Zherdev.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the Blue Jackets don't want to give him a long term deal, there is only a couple of other players on the roster with long term deals and Zherdev is part of a small core of players (Nash, Zherdev, Brule, Klesla, and LeClaire) that promise to give a strong future. Is there something in the CBA I don't understand or do the Jackets need to learn how to use the CBA correctly in the New NHL.

7/27/06, 12:08 PM

Blogger Brushback said...

I think you're right-- it's players like Zherdev that the second-division franchise dream of getting in bunches, to be able to turn their team around.

Obviously, Zherdev's attitude woes and poor training habits play a huge part in the Blue Jackets' reluctance.

7/27/06, 9:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason they don't want to sign him for longer is that a 2 year deal leaves him as a restricted free agent at the end. If they go for 4 years, then he's a free agent and can go anywhere. So in this case offering a shorter term deal is a way of ensuring that they keep him longer.

And if he continues to improve, then after 1-2 years he will get the big contract.

I love watching Zherdev play, but he takes periods, games, weeks off at times and needs to learn to use his talent along with his teammates. He did that part of last year and if he continues...big, huge contract.


8/31/06, 3:05 PM


Post a Comment

<< Go To Main Page