ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 14: Nikolay Zherdev #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers falls down behind the net against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on January 14 2011 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
I like Nikolay Zherdev. Okay well, I like Nikolai Zherdev. He might be sphinxlike, cryptic and Delphian, but he brings another needed layer to the offense. It's hard not to win the "he's more valuable than his replacements" argument when those replacements are Dan Carcillo and Jody Shelley, too.
We knew that Peter Laviolette didn't like Zherdev, and I was actually planning on writing this story today before he decided to start both Carcillo and Shelley over him last night. Now it's only blatantly obvious instead of just slightly obvious, and this story is only more relevant.
I'm not sure we'll ever find out why Peter Laviolette has such a dislike for Zherdev. No. 93 has shown at least a cursory commitment to playing defense and he's one of 10 players on the team with a double-digit goal count this season. He's behind only Danny Briere on the team when it comes to goals per 60 minutes of ice time.
The picture has been painted that he's some kind of horrible teammate that's anti-defense and worthless to the team. It's not really a fair picture at all. We're not saying that Peter Laviolette is the one that painted that picture in our heads, but every time Zherdev sits as a healthy scratch it reinforces the image.
Why else would he be held out of the lineup?
It also doesn't help when Laviolette dismisses the questions on the subject. Like, for example, this past Sunday, when Chuck Gormley of the Courier Post asked if there's anything in particular that Zherdev needs to do to get back in the lineup?
"You know, this was an opportunity to get Jody back in there, and he was ready" Lavi said. "He came out because of illness and this was just a chance to get him back in there. Like I said before, it's just a numbers game."
Yes, a numbers game that's kept a 15 goal scorer out for a goon or a grinder at least eight times (by my quick count). If Laviolette's not willing to play Zherdev, fine. I've learned to trust the coach in the last year and I can go along with that decision. If Zherdev's not going to play, though, he needs to be traded.
The trade deadline is a week and a half away and there are about 18 NHL teams (rough count, but that's about right) on the playoff bubble. I'm not going to speculate on which teams the Flyers could trade Zherdev to, but we can talk about what kind of return he could fetch. I think he could get the Flyers a nice little return.
Think about it. The Senators traded Mike Fisher last week to the Nashville Predators, and in return for the 30-year-old two-way center, they received a first round pick and a conditional third round pick. The Senators also sent Chris Kelly to Boston the other night for a second round pick. The Flyers gave up a first and a third for Kris Versteeg.
Let's compare these players to Zherdev.
|2010 - Mike Fisher||57||14||11||25||-18||35||3||0||1||137|
|2010 - Chris Kelly||57||12||11||23||-12||27||0||1||2||89|
|2010 - Kris Versteeg||55||14||22||36||-13||29||5||0||0||131|
|2010 - Nikolay Zherdev||47||15||4||19||7||20||1||0||1||110|
The other players are all much more solid defensively than Zherdev, sure, but I think it's safe to say that Zherdev's offensive talents, when given room to work, are better than all three of those players. He has more goals than all of them in less games. Obviously, that's a pretty simple analysis, but it still rings true.
Is there any doubt that Zherdev could help any number of teams with their goal scoring issues? When compared side-by-side with the return for each of Versteeg, Fisher and Kelly, is there any doubt that Zherdev could get the Flyers a second round pick in the upcoming draft, at the absolute least, via trade?
Then again, as Dan Liberg pointed out in the comments, Zherdev is a UFA at the end of the current season, which could bring his price tag down a bit. A third might be more realistic. Or, since Craig Custance of The Sporting News reported that the Flyers are interested in bolstering the depth on defense (yeah, I know... it's deep already), they could perhaps acquire somebody there. All depends on the cap, of course, which we won't get into the details of here.
The only problem I can see is that his reputation is tarnished yet again. If that's the case, you have to be disappointed with the organization for how they've handled this project this season. Teams should be interested in Zherdev given his talents. If he's not, it's hard not for me to place at least some of that blame on the team.
The bottom line here is simple. The Flyers need to get some kind of value in return for Zherdev before he walks away for nothing in July, because despite how he's been treated during his time in Philadelphia, he has actual value. Time to sell.