September 16, 2009
As we reported yesterday, former New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nikolai Zherdev(notes) has signed with Atlant of the KHL, and is expected to make his debut for the club on Sept. 21 against Amur. Atlant is waiting for a transfer card from the IIHF.
(For the trivia fans: He will wear No. 13 on his back.)
My colleague Pavel Lysenkov spoke with Nik about his big move, and Zherdev had some candid revelations about his negotiations with the Rangers and why he didn't end up signing with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Q. Why did you sign a contract with Atlant?
ZHERDEV: I signed with Atlant because I couldn't agree on terms with the Atlanta Thrashers. The negotiation reached a dead end. I had to wait for some time. But there was no time to wait. The season has already started. And I decided to spend this year in the KHL. I know my team very well. I played with a lot of guys at CSKA and in Mytischi. We will quickly find understanding [on the ice]. I also followed the KHL all the time, even when I was playing in America.
Why couldn't it happen with Atlanta for you?
The option was very good. Nik Antropov(notes), my former New York Rangers teammate, is there. There is also Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) who I trained with together this summer in Luzhniki, he also asked me to [join] his team. But I think the problem arose because Atlanta has to urgently sign a new big contract with Kovalchuk, and there was simply no money left for other free agents.
Can you still go back to the NHL?
Yes, I think so. I will spend this year in Russia. And after that I will consider all offers, including those from across the ocean. I don't know if they will take me back. It's the first time for me that I ended up in this situation. I have to prove with my game what I am worth. Then everything will be alright.
But two years ago you also played in Mytischi, and then left for the NHL.
The situation was different back then. Now it is not common in Russia to sign "insurance" contracts [with an out clause if a player gets an offer from the NHL]. Now, if you sign a contract, please be sure and honor it in full.
There were also reports that you accepted a qualifying offer of $3,25 million from the New York Rangers, but the Rangers declined saying it was too late. Are you disappointed?
These were all lies printed in the media. This is how it was. The Rangers made me a qualifying offer. It didn't satisfy me. My agent and I filed for arbitration and were awarded $3.9 million a year. The New York Rangers walked away, deciding to make me a free agent. I didn't get upset. It was their right. That's all. I did not have any other negotiations with the club.