While the entire NHL waits, breath held tight, looking to see which team enters the final bid in this endless auction for the highly coveted star Ilya Kovalchuk, the Flyers continue to prepare moves behind the scenes.
Since the days immediately following the NHL draft, there have been talks of moving Simon Gagne to clear cap space. That cap space was originally thought to be intended for either Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov, the latter of which has since moved back to Russia and the KHL.
The past couple of days have revealed another player on the Flyers’ radar, a player who would fill a much needed role on the offensive side. That target is Nikolai Zherdev, formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers.
Zherdev, a 25 year old native of Kiev, in the Ukranian Soviet Union, is a skilled right winger who could be a good match with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk on the Flyers’ third scoring line. Giroux has a great set of hands and terrific vision. Unfortunately, he spent much of last season alongside right wingers who could not match his level of play, providing him with fewer options and unable to set him up in return. Zherdev has the ability to do what Arron Asham couldn’t on that line. He’s notched more than 20 goals in three of his five seasons in the NHL, including his previous two.
The problems arise when you consider the salary cap, and how Zherdev fits in with that. Simon Gagne’s $5.25 million contract is a heavy cap hit, and with him coming up on free agency in the next offseason, the Flyers would likely be unable to resign the 30 year old sniper. It’s for those reasons that there have been talks about him waiving his no trade clause (which he has since declined ever doing). One of the more common teams mentioned in rumors surrounding Gagne has been the LA Kings, who have also been off and on bidders for Kovalchuk. Should his decision come soon, there may be more teams turning their attention to Gagne, which would make Paul Holmgren and the Flyers’ job much easier.
As it stands, no direct offers seem to be on the table, and there have even been rumors floating around some NHL executives that the Flyers may have to take their chances and send him through waivers, where he would surely be picked up by another team with cap space to work with. That would be a definite loss for the Flyers, who could get some pieces – be they prospects, draft picks, or otherwise – in exchange for Gagne.
However, it wouldn’t be too tragic of a loss, as they are already on pace to have him leave at the end of next season as an unrestricted free agent, and his loss would provide cap space for Zherdev and then some. Looking at it that way, the only thing lost is a potential pick from a team looking to acquire his rights before next year’s free agency
Whatever happens, continue to check back for the latest news in Flyers’ offseason moves.