Nikolai Zherdev will end up in the KHL if he's unable to find an NHL team interested in signing him. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
Nikolai Zherdev became an unrestricted free agent when the New York Rangers exercised their option to walk away from his one-year, $3.9-million arbitration award, but he will find it difficult to find another NHL suitor.
Zherdev has undeniable offensive skills, with 119 points over the past two seasons split between the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, but he’s considered a lazy, one-dimensional player unable to elevate his game in pressure situations.
Most reports about him involve clubs that aren’t interested in signing him, including the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.
A report in New York Newsday cited a rumor out of Toronto claiming the Maple Leafs might have interest in Zherdev, but his style of play certainly doesn’t make him a Brian Burke-type player. The Leafs are in the market for more scoring depth, but it’d be shocking if Burke signed Zherdev.
Newsday reported Zherdev’s agent has suggested his client could sign with a Kontinental League team if there was nothing available for him in the NHL.
• As for the ongoing saga of Dany Heatley’s trade request, the Ottawa Sun recently reported talks between the Senators and San Jose Sharks stalled because of Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s unwillingness to part with a top six forward as part of the return.
If Heatley isn’t traded and instead reports to the Senators training camp next month, teammate Chris Neil said Heatley would owe the rest of the Senators an explanation. But Neil added the disgruntled winger would still be welcomed back.
It’s also believed Senators GM Bryan Murray is interested in re-signing center Mike Comrie, but his hands are tied until the Heatley situation is resolved.
It had been rumored a third team might have to get involved if Heatley were to be moved to San Jose, but it won’t be the Montreal Canadiens.
While the Montreal Gazette suggested Canadiens GM Bob Gainey left the door open to a possible trade for a big scoring center earlier this summer, the paper dismissed rumors Sharks captain Patrick Marleau could be headed to Montreal in a three-way trade.
Pat Hickey cited the three clubs’ salary cap issues, noting the numbers wouldn’t work.
Marleau also has a no-trade clause and likely an unwillingness to be dealt during a contract year, especially to Montreal where he’d face the fishbowl existence of life as a Canadien.
An even sillier rumor had the Canadiens shipping recently acquired Mike Cammalleri to Ottawa, with Heatley going to San Jose and Jonathan Cheechoo and Christian Ehrhoff heading to Montreal.
Suggesting the Canadiens would trade Cammalleri only a month after signing him as an unrestricted free agent is proof the lack of real news during the summer gives rise to very imaginative rumors with no basis in reality.
• There’s nothing new to report on Phil Kessel’s contract talks with the Boston Bruins.
Last week, the New York Post reported rumors that two west coast teams might be interested in Kessel, sparking speculation the Sharks would be one of those clubs if they’re unable to land Heatley.
However, as the Boston Globe noted over the weekend, Kessel could be sidelined until December recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, so neither side is in a hurry.
The surgery and recovery time will likely ensure the trade rumors about him this summer won’t come to fruition.
In order to re-sign Kessel, the Bruins would have to dump some cap space to make room for his new salary, but don’t expect Marco Sturm to be part of that equation.
During a recent interview, Sturm said he loves playing for the Bruins, is excited about the upcoming season and doesn’t put much stock into trade rumors that have surfaced about him.
Sturm has a no-trade clause and said he hadn’t been asked by anyone in Bruins management to waive it.
• Teams interested in a defenseman with offensive skills might want to get in touch with Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, who recently told the Raleigh News & Observer of his plans to shop Anton Babchuk.
A restricted free agent, Babchuk was unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with Rutherford. The defenseman posted good numbers last season with the Hurricanes (16 goals, 35 points, plus-13 in 72 games) and could be a good addition for teams seeking a puck-moving defenseman.
Babchuk earned $1 million last season and will undoubtedly try to use his numbers to land something in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. If Rutherford fails to trade him before the start of this season, Babchuk could opt to play in Russia, which he did in 2007-08 during a contract dispute with the Hurricanes.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.