Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nikolai Zherdev Blue Jackets

Nikolai Zherdev is threatening instead to play in his mother country this season unless the Columbus Blue Jackets step up contract talks with the 21-year-old restricted free agent.
"The Russian threat doesn't faze me in the least," Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean said yesterday from his Columbus office.
Zherdev has signed a deal with Russian club Khimik Voskresenk and has played with the team for the past few weeks.
Zherdev was second in goals (27) and points (54) with the Jackets last season, his second in the NHL. Now he wants a raise on the $942,400 (all figures U.S.) salary he earned last season. The Jackets are believed to have offered a little more than $1.1-million for a one-year deal or in excess of $3.5-million over two years, not close to what the Zherdev camp wants.
"If we keep talking the way we're talking, there is no breakthrough here," said Hedges, who originally wanted a long-term deal but will settle for a one-year deal that pays enough. What baffles MacLean is that Zherdev, with the help of the Jackets, fought hard to get out of Russia two years ago, battling litigation from his old club CSKA Moscow to bolt to the Jackets.
"I guess I'm a little taken aback that it cost us in excess of $600,000 to get him out of Russia," MacLean said.
"Now he's saying he wants to go back? That catches me a little off-guard."
Here are my thoughts on this I am sure Doug would disagree with me.
In my opinion he can stay there and we can get somebody with size and speed.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Guys like Zherdev and Fritsche haven't proven themselves in the NHL yet, but want superstar salaries.

Anonymous said...

Granted, Nick is asking for too much too soon, but MacLean's initial 1.1. mill offer was obviously an "up yours", given what Nick had been paid in his first two years, and the stats he put up in those two years. It's good to see that they've made some other offers recently, but I think MacLean's initial ploy of making Zherdev seem like an expendable fourth-line grinder was misplayed.

MacLean's position is that Zherdev hasn't lived up to expectations. Fair enough, I suppose, but low-balling him and telling him he can take a walk if he doesn't like it will do nothing to help the situation. At least they should have included major incentives and the possibility for a multi-year deal. Zherdev would be able to see that the team wanted to keep him around but felt he could be better. That would be a decent point at which to begin negotiations. It states the team's position clearly: you're good, but could be better.

But a one year, low-end, no incentive, no extension contract completely hamstrings the negotiations because it doesn't help Z understand a) what's expected of him b) what constitutes "success" for him and c) that he can count on honest dealing in the future if he meets expectations. It gives him no hard information about his future, what he could do to secure his future and how the BlueJackets will deal with him in the future. So not only is it a low offer, which is to be expected, it is sure to make him think twice about taking it because it makes it clear that the team feels he is of little value.

Additionally, losing Zherdev diminishes the upside of two of the team's biggest recent trades.

I have always felt that Fedorov was acquired as much for his off-ice presence, as related to Zherdev, as for his on-ice skills. There's no question he helped Nick out last year. Z was visibly a better play after that trade. I look at the Fedorov trade as us getting Sergei and the real Nick Zherdev. That made it a good trade, even as Beauchamin tore it up down the stretch last year. Take Zherdev out of the equation and all we got was an overpaid former superstar with diminishing skills.

I was ecstatic with the Modin-Denis trade because it meant our top two lines were legit scoring threats. But if you take Z out, Modin is not an addition, he's just filling Zherdev's spot, basically. It would be like we traded Denis to get…Zherdev, who we already had. Over the past two seasons, Modin's points per game average is virtually identical to Z's. And Z is way younger, so he has much more potential to increase his production in the next 2, 3 or 4 seasons, where Modin is likely to start declining, as this will be his 10th year in the NHL.

My guess is that Zherdev will eventually take a 1 year contract, as his agent has hinted at in the past few weeks, then tell the CBJ to shove it when the next contract comes up. I can't imagine being low-balled, fragged in the press by the GM and being treated like an afterthought and nuisiance will make him want to stick around when his next contract comes up. Wouldn't surprise me at all if we see him in a different jersey in 2007-2008, playing for the same money than the CBJ offered to pay him.

I, for one, will start this season in a very, very bad mood if we let Zherdev go. I'll bet I'm not the only one, and that's not good for a franchise that has never contended for a playoff spot and looks like a longshot to do so this year.