The Waiting Game

Yesterday, the Nikolai Zherdev situation took it’s turn into the homestretch as the arbitrator awarded the enigmatic russian sniper an award of $3.9 million for next season. Glen Sather and the Rangers now have 48 hours to decide whether to accept this ruling (which was pretty much splitting the difference between the two proposals from both sides) and have Zherdev on the wing for another campaign (or as trade bait) or walk away from the ruling and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team or return to Russia with the KHL. The belief since Zherdev first elected to take the team to arbitration was that no matter the ruling, the Rangers would walk away because they have already made moves to replace him on the roster by signing Ales Kotalik to a 3 year deal last month. Sather has also shown himself at times to be stubborn and vindictive to players who have tried to hold him over a barrel in negotiations and was none too pleased at Zherdev and his agent opting to go the arbitration route.

While it is most likely that the team will let Zherdev walk, I’m sure Sather has contacted just about every other GM in the league to gauge interest should they retain him and look to move him via trade. The 3.9 million dollar award is not a prohibitive number for most teams considering the going rate for a 50 point scorer in the NHL at the moment. There could be some interest if the rangers are not looking to get a big haul in return and would settle for prospects or picks.

The thought that Zherdev could return to the team and play on Broadway next season becomes even less of an option once you realize that the Rangers still have to sign Brandon Dubinsky, who could be the team’s top line center, and that by accepting Zherdev at the 3.9 million price tag would have to make some tough decisions to get under the salary cap.

I personally think this has worked out exactly as Sather hoped it would. He already signed Kotalik to replace Zherdev and now will have the money to sign Dubinsky to a long term deal like he did with fellow building block Ryan Callahan last month. Losing Zherdev for nothing after trading Fedor Tyutin (who would look nice as a fourth or fifth D-Man on this season’s roster) to Columbus for him last season could be hard for some fans to swallow ,but after watching his uninspired play under John Tortorella during the second half season and the playoffs last year, it could truly be addition by subtraction in this case.

In other reports from around the web, Larry Brooks of the NY Post thinks the Rangers might be looking to bring in Todd Bertuzzi before camp opens. This was a scenario we talked about a few weeks ago here. SNY Rangers blog has more on the never ending Dany Heatley saga here.

When the Rangers decision on Zherdev comes down, we will have it for you here.

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