In light of Russian hockey journalist Dmitry Chesnokov tweeting that “[Nikolay] Zherdev’s Russian agent says the player is considering only NHL offers at this point,” you have to think that either a) the player is mulling a series of offers or b) no team has put forth a serious offer to the player.
Let’s be clear. Nikolay Zherdev wants to play in the National Hockey League and belongs in the National Hockey League. You’d need upwards of all my fingers and toes to count the number of teams that could use a scoring winger at a good price. Zherdev made just $2M last season and could be had by a team for below market value.
There aren’t many good reasons to keep Nikolay Zherdev off your hockey team, and they certainly aren’t apparent in any of his advanced numbers, which highlight the fact that he’s quite valuable at both ends of the ice. The numbers are taken from Behind The Net and are included with Zherdev’s rank among forwards on his team who played more than 50 games.
|Year||Team||G/60||Corsi Rel||Corsi Rel QoC|
|2008||CBJ||.95 (2nd)||11.2 (1st)||.460 (6th)|
|2009||NYR||.94 (3rd)||11.4 (2nd)||.344 (9th)|
|2011||PHI||1.29 (3rd)||17.3 (1st)||.221 (9th)|
I’ve taken the liberty to nickname Zherdev “The Czar of Relative Corsi”, which is right up the top of his team. Unsigned. The one guy on your team who can dominate possession for your team, with finishing ability, unsigned.
I will point out similar statistics to another second line player who recently signed as an unrestricted free agent on a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. I’m leaving the player’s name out as to allow a bias-free comparison.
|Year||G/60||Corsi Rel||Corsi Rel QoC|
|2009||.90 (4th)||.9 (8th)||.672 (1st)|
|2010||1.10 (5th)||-10.7 (12th)||.350 (5th)|
|2011||.81 (5th)||-6.1 (10th)||.136 (8th)|
Zherdev offers more scoring punch and better play at both ends. Based off last year’s statistics in particular, you see quite a change between the two players. The ability to drive possession isn’t one that should be overlooked, as the teams that obtain the most possession tend to be pretty high seeds heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Speaking of the playoffs, Zherdev’s underlying possession number tends to be pretty high there, as well.
A perception exists that Zherdev is lazy or fails to listen to his coach. Of course Zherdev works hard: Why else would a hockey player fly across the ocean when he could make more money and get more playing time back home? If Zherdev doesn’t backcheck, it’s because he doesn’t necessarily have to–his team always seems to have the puck when he’s on the ice. His playoff numbers have taken a hit due to some bad luck: He ran into Semyon Varlamov when Varlamov played the best he’s ever has, and this season played against Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas. Take your pick of individual achievements between those two goalies. His shooting percentages have dipped, but he maintains positive possession.
The verdict is that Zherdev was paid just $2M last season and would probably play again for a similar number this season. If a team needs a scoring winger, the opportunity is begging itself. For the sake of my sanity and the sake of the owner’s chequebook and squeezing every last bit of value out of a hockey player, some team needs to sign him. Rest the perception about his intangible value, rest the perception about European players not playing hard enough, and just sign the best available unrestricted free agent who scores goals.