September 15, 2009
The saga of Nikolai Zherdev(notes) and his search for a new club may come to an end tomorrow. I have learned that Zherdev has agreed to terms with Atlant of the KHL. I contacted my sources in Russia who told me that the team will make an announcement about Zherdev tomorrow. The team neither confirmed nor denied the reports that Zherdev has signed.
With Atlant playing away, Zherdev was visiting Atlant's offices to discuss the terms of the contract. The terms and the length of the deal are not yet known.
It should be noted that earlier reports that Zherdev signed with KHL's Salavat Ulaef were immediately denied by the team coach Igor Zakharkin. Zherdev later confirmed that negotiations were ongoing with the Altanta Thrashers, where he would be reunited with his countryman Ilya Kovalchuk(notes). At the time, Don Waddell confirmed the talks but said that "nothing was imminent."
According to other reports, Zherdev wanted to accept the initial $3.25 million offer from the New York Rangers a few months after initially rejecting it. But the offer was no longer available for him to accept.
If Zherdev does in fact put his signature on the contract with Atlant, he will reunite with one of his mentors, Ravil Iskhakov ,who is now a coach with the club. Iskhakov was one of Zherdev's first coaches, when Nik played for Elemash Elektrostal from 1999 to 2002. Zherdev also played for Atlant two years ago -- the club was called Khimik before it moved and changed the name.
Zherdev's inconsistency and the high amount he was awarded after arbitration may be considered the biggest stumbling blocks for NHL teams willing to consider Zherdev's services. The money offered by KHL may be the primary reason Zherdev is going back to Russia. Another consideration is that Zherdev wants to make the Russian Olympic team. And playing in Russia will certainly give him more exposure to the national team coaches.
Despite the current news, I am sure that Zherdev will want to come back to the NHL as early as next season