For the Flyers, Moving Nik Zherdev May Be Best Option

Written By Tom Dougherty On Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zherdev could be on his way out of Philadelphia.

For the first time since he suffered a sprained knee against Ottawa last month, Dan Carcillo returned to the lineup in the Flyers 2-1 overtime win in Boston Saturday night.

To clear the way for Carcillo’s return, coach Peter Laviolette made Nikolay Zherdev a healthy scratch for the third time this season.

Zherdev was signed by the orange and black during the offseason for $2 million for one year.

Through 31 games, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren’s flier isn’t working out as originally planned.

In 28 games, Zherdev has nine goals and one assists with a +2 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

When bringing the 26-year-old to Philly, Holmgren knew what he was getting; pure offensive talent with major flaws in his all around game and attitude.

His thinking was that a year in Russia would remind Zherdev how much of a decrease in competition and lifestyle playing in the KHL is compared to playing in North America.

While it’s still early enough to made a noticeable impact, Zherdev has displayed all the negatives that led to him playing in Russia last year.

The book on the former first rounder was that he floats in the defensive and offensive zone, takes shifts off and is lazy.

Nothing he has done thus far suggest he’s a better player.

Blessed with natural talent, Zherdev thinks he doesn’t have to skate in the offensive or defensive zones, only in the neutral zone.

His style of play and Laviolette’s system is like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

With an inconsistent work ethic on the ice, Zherdev starts out each game on the fourth line with Blair Betts and Jody Shelley. Lavy’s plan is to make the Russian earn his playing time. In most games, Zhe usually makes it up to the third line with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux.

Laviolette has shown in his year-plus tenure that no player is given ice time based on pure ability. Look at Ville Leino, who couldn’t crack the lineup until an late season injury allowed him to play in the playoffs.

Leino is now a second line winger on Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell’s line.

Earlier this year, Laviolette sat Homer’s second overall pick in 2006 James van Riemsdyk because he couldn’t light the lamp if the puck was on his tape with an open net.

Since JVR cracked his way back into the lineup, he has been a different player. More like the kid who showed up in the preseason than the player who wouldn’t use his size to his advantage.

van Riemsdyk has five goals since returning to the lineup.

The Flyers said that they expected a physical contest against the Bruins, hence the decision to insert Carcillo for Zherdev.

From this point forward, no one knows when Laviolette plans to put him back in the lineup, if at all.

Taking into account the looming roster decisions Holmgren has to make when Michael Leighton returns from back surgery, it’s not a stretch to wonder if Zherdev will be a cap casualty.

The Flyers have the scoring depth to be able to survive without Zherdev’s nine goals. Four players already have double digit tallies with Briere leading the way with 16.

In order to activate Leighton from the lone term injured reserve, the Flyers will have to clear $1.555 million.

Then, if they go with Leighton as the backup to rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, Holmgren will have to make two moves.

For example, waive or trade Brian Boucher and Matt Walker, Carcillo or Zherdev.

As it looks today, Boosh isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

Rather than losing defensive depth in waiving Walker, shopping Nik Zherdev for a draft pick would be wise.

It’s never too early to admit a mistake. If Zherdev isn’t playing the system, wouldn’t it make sense to trade him rather than paying him $2 million to sit in the press box?

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