Zherdev Awarded $3.9m; Leafs Interested?


    The word on the street is Rangers’ winger Nikolai Zherdev has been awarded $3.9m in arbitration (unconfirmed).   If true, many suspect the amount to be out of GM Glen Sather’s price range, and he may allow Zherdev to walk as a result.

    A hot rumour today has the Maple Leafs‘ monitoring the situation closely, and many have said that if the Rangers decline the arbitration result, Leafs‘ GM Brian Burke is expected to be at the head of the line of teams attempting to sign the mercurial, but immensely talented, winger.

    Zherdev has undeniable talent, and would immediately become the Maple Leafs‘ top offensive threat if he were to be signed. The knock on him has always been his defensive play (which has improved considerably the past couple years), and inconsistency. He seems to run either hot or cold; never in between.

    Many have suggested that Zherdev suffers from a case of “centre ice syndrome”.   Namely, in order to be at the top of his game he needs to feel that he is the star, and that the game depends on his performance.   In Columbus, and later New York, he was overshadowed by “name” players such as Nash, Gomez, and Drury, upon whose shoulders the pressure to win, and lead, was placed.   Many observers feel that Zherdev excels when feeling that pressure to lead his team and be the main man on offense. But when the pressure is not on, he tends to disappear.

    There are several selling points the Maple Leafs could use to lure him to Toronto. The promise of top line minutes comes to mind, for one, as does the presence of a rougher, tougher defense to take some of the two-way pressure off the top forwards.  Perhaps more importantly, Toronto would provide the opportunity to play in a high-pressure market where he would be counted on — by coaches and fans – to be the team’s offensive leader.   If it is true that he responds well to those circumstances, as many in the NHL seem to believe, the conditions could be right for him to excel in the blue and white.

    Remember how the Stralman trade was said to have opened the door to another possibile move? With the extra roster spot opened up in that deal — this may be it.

    What do you think?   Would you sign him if he became available? And do you think an amount close to the arbitration award (which was 3.9m) is reasonable considering his relative youth and immense talent?

    Also, if the Rangers were to sign him in order to trade him and get some value back (another rumour has this scenario being the case), would you be interested in making a deal? If so, what would you offer?