Nikolai Zherdev Would Be an Uneccessary Risk for Flyers

NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Nikolai Zherdev #13 of the New York Rangers is tripped by Mike Mottau #27 of the New Jersey Devils during their game on March 30, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Obviously, the deal isn’t done, and we don’t know the terms, but unless they’re going to get him for a tiny amount of money, I can’t believe the Flyers are considering signing Nik Zherdev.

Or more to the point, I can’t believe the Flyers would sign Zherdev, even though it makes it more likely they’ll have to move Simon Gagne and even though the Flyers have yet to address their goaltending issue.

But even if you ignore the salary implications of Zherdev, the hockey issues aren’t any brighter.

Zherdev is talented, but he doesn’t apply that talent consistently. He doesn’t like to get into high traffic areas, so you’ll often see him floating just off the boards, ostensibly taking himself out of the play.

I’m not sure how that style of play will go over on a team like the Flyers, that pretty much lives and dies trying to get between and below the opposing faceoff circles.

Zherdev doesn’t have much of a defensive game, either. In fact, when he last played in the NHL, back in the 2008-09 season, he could be downright irresponsible, leaving the defensive zone too soon and not getting physical with anyone.

Some nights, he looked like a human pylon.

I can see why the Flyers like the idea of Zherdev. He’s fast. He shows flashes of breathtaking talent. I’m sure the Flyers are salivating at the idea of Zherdev and Danny Briere shooting down the ice, blowing past everyone. And I’m sure Zherdev will give them a few of those moments. But I’m not sure Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren is also considering the times when Zherdev will disappear, leaving his linemates to fend for themselves.

Zherdev spent last season playing in the KHL. Maybe that helped his game mature. Maybe playing in the KHL made him realize just how much he wants to play in the NHL and maybe he’s now willing to work hard to keep an NHL job. Zherdev might not be the same player he was two years ago.

But considering the Flyers are exploring the idea of trading Gagne for cap reasons and considering the Flyers still don’t have a true starting goalie, I’m not sure why they’re experimenting with a player like Zherdev, whose upside seems to be entirely theoretical.

No one managed to tap his full potential in five NHL seasons. It’s bold for the Flyers to think they’re the team that can help him finally fully realize his talent.

Unless the Flyers sign him at a rock-bottom price, which hasn’t been Zherdev’s past modus operandi, he’s a risk the Flyers just can’t afford to take right now.