New York Rangers\' Nikolai Zherdev (13) works for the puck with Minnesota Wild\'s Marian Gaborik during the third period of an hockey game Tuesday, March 24, 2009, in New York. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Frank Franklin II)
NEW YORK - Nikolai Zherdev has become an unrestricted free agent after the New York Rangers elected to walk away from the US$3.9-million salary arbitration award to the winger.
"With the additions we've been able to make this summer, we feel we've been able to add scoring and offence from the wing position," Rangers GM Glen Sather said in a news release Tuesday. "Following the arbitration process and subsequent award given, we feel it is in our best interest to walk away and continue to explore all available options to improve our roster."
An arbitrator awarded Zherdev $3.9 million on Sunday, $650,000 more than the $3.25-million qualifying offer tabled by the Rangers. He reportedly sought about $4.5 million in arbitration.
Zherdev, 24, appeared in 82 games with the Rangers last season, recording 23 goals and 35 assists with 39 penalty minutes.
In 365 regular-season games with the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, Zherdev has collected 99 goals and 140 assists.