Flyers Nik a bad situation by waiving Zherdev

Nik Zherdev wore out welcome here, as he has done elsewhere.
Nik Zherdev wore out welcome here, as he has done elsewhere.
Posted: February 24, 2011

NIK ZHERDEV'S smile, from ear to ear, would have been visible from the moon - let alone from one end of the hallway that connects Peter Laviolette's office to the Flyers' training rooms at the Skate Zone.

Finally, Zherdev got what he wanted. As requested, Zherdev was waived by the Flyers yesterday at noon.

Fresh out of a meeting with general manager Paul Holmgren, Zherdev smiled as he declined to talk with reporters and ducked out of a side door before being whisked away in a waiting limousine.

Destination: unknown. Zherdev became available to all 29 teams yesterday - in reverse standings order - for the prorated portion of his $2 million salary, which is $494,624. He could be heading to another NHL club in desperate need of scoring, to the AHL to play out of the remainder of his contract, or he could be bolting back to Russia.

"His agent, and Nik, they obviously weren't very happy with the situation here," Holmgren explained. "They asked us for other options. Nothing really came of that through trade."

The timing of the move came as little surprise, as it benefits both sides. For the Flyers, removing Zherdev from the salary cap could pave the way for a replacement scoring winger, a depth defenseman, or both, as the NHL's trade deadline looms at 3 p.m. Monday.

"You're barking up the wrong tree," Holmgren said yesterday when asked about a possible move. "Other than the fact that he's on waivers doesn't mean there is a followup to this."

For Zherdev, 26, it is yet another chance to start over in a new city - after failing to win over coaches and teammates in Columbus, New York and now Philadelphia - just in time for a playoff run if claimed.

"Nik just wants to play," Zherdev's agent, Jay Grossman, told the Daily News. "I think Homer has been very fair in getting him that opportunity, wherever it is. I wouldn't characterize things in Philly as 'beyond repair,' and I do think he makes a good insurance policy. He is a guy that can score a big goal when needed. At this moment, at this hour, he's just looking for a place to play."

And no matter the knocks against him, Zherdev was one of the Flyers' most gifted scorers. He posted 15 goals in 47 games - and would still lead the Ottawa Senators in scoring - despite only 12 minutes of ice time per game and little to no power play time.

Holmgren knew in July, when he signed Zherdev from Russia, that there were risks with a player with questions about his work ethic.

"It was kind of an experiment to bring him in here and see what he could do," Holmgren said. "There were periods of time it was good. But over the course of time here, things have eroded. Nik's work ethic has probably dropped off. Right now, he's just not fitting in."

Zherdev was a healthy scratch for the last six games under Peter Laviolette, who said Zherdev just didn't "fit in the top nine" mix of forwards. Still, Holmgren said it was Zherdev's response to the benching that might have gotten under Laviolette's skin.

"I think everyone wants to play, and I don't think he's any different in that regard," Holmgren said. "The fact that he wasn't playing, maybe he didn't respond the right way a lot of times."

Friday at Carolina, when Mike Richards came down with a stomach illness just minutes before puck dropped, the Flyers could not even find Zherdev in the stadium to put him in the lineup. That might have been the last straw.

There is a slight chance, after clearing waivers, that Zherdev remains with the Flyers.

Holmgren said he still likes the idea of Zherdev as insurance, "if one of your skill guys get hurt."

More than anything, Holmgren's move yesterday was a way of saying the first-place Flyers won't be bogged down by one guy's wayward attitude - no matter his stats or his talent.

"He scored some big goals for us," Danny Briere said. "But at the same time, we have lots of firepower. We have lots of guys that can score. Guys have to do more than just scoring goals. You can't just go out there and score, you have to chip in with the rest of the team. I think it's a message to the rest of the team that we're not going to take any guys not working as hard." *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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