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Should The New Jersey Devils Claim Nikolay Zherdev off Waivers?

Today, the Philadelphia Flyers placed RW Nikolay (or Nikolai) Zherdev on waivers.   It was rumored that he was on the trading block and recently he had been scratched in favor of players like Daniel Carcillo and Jody Shelley.   After signing a one year/$2MM deal in the offseason, the Flyers were looking to Zherdev to supply some secondary scoring.  He did provide that, but apparently his defensive play or the perception of his defensive play by team management, along with concerns about his attitude led to him being placed on waivers today.

The New Jersey Devils, because of their league ranking, would have an opportunity to pick him up via waivers before 25 other NHL clubs.   As I think it is unlikely that the clubs ahead of the Devils would put in a claim for Zherdev he would seem to be available for the Devils at their waiver selection spot.  Is Zherdev worth claiming?  I think he is.   I give six reasons why after the jump!

1.  He can score!

With 15 goals in 47 games on the season, Zherdev can put the puck in the net.  He has put those goals on the board while having only received 12:28 in ice time per game.  Only one of those goals was not on the power play, so he has played pretty well at even strength.  His overall GVT (Goals Versus Threshold) rate is 5.0 (3.5 in offensive value)Those values would place him over all Devils forward not named Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. 

Further, using this analysis from BroadStreetHockey at the midpoint of the year he was shown to be one of the most productive Flyer forwards: Here is what author Geoff Detweiler had to say about his Corsi/Fenwick/Zone start stats at that time:

.....Zherdev is getting third-line opportunities and performing at a 1st-2nd line rate.

His on-ice Corsi score via is 13.08 which would only be eclipsed by Patrik Elias' 16.35.

2.  Salary Investment

Per he would only cost the Devils $494,624 in salary for the remainder of the season.  Low risk considering the presence he might bring to a 3rd/4th line.  It's also a nice audition price too.  What if he buys into Jacques Lemaire's commitment to team defense, wouldn't his talent be a huge bargain not only this year, but down the road?  Speaking of commitment to team defense, that leads me to my next reason:

3.  Ilya Kovalchuk

He trains in the off-season with Kovalchuk, Ovechkin and others in Russia, which shows they have a good personal relationship off the ice.  With Kovalchuk's commitment to being a complete player, specifically taking care of his defensive responsibilities, it will show Zherdev the benefits to become a more complete player (one of the chief complaints about him).  Plus, according to a post by Travis Hughes of BroadStreetHockey here, it doesn't seem like Zherdev is the sieve on defense that he is advertised to be.

I'm not sure we'll ever find out why Peter Laviolette has such a dislike for Zherdev. No. 93 has shown at least a cursory commitment to playing defense and he's one of 10 players on the team with a double-digit goal count this season. He's behind only Danny Briere on the team when it comes to goals per 60 minutes of ice time. 

The picture has been painted that he's some kind of horrible teammate that's anti-defense and worthless to the team. It's not really a fair picture at all. We're not saying that Peter Laviolette is the one that painted that picture in our heads, but every time Zherdev sits as a healthy scratch it reinforces the image.

If anyone could preach to him how New Jersey is the right place to re-invent your image and learn to play within a team concept, I can't think of a better person than Kovalchuk.  He is doing it in front of our eyes.

4. Jay Grossman

Grossman is Zherdev's agent.   Grossman is also the agent for Johan Hedberg, Anssi Salmela, Anton Volchenkov and that Kovalchuk fellow.  Obviously Grossman and Lou Lamoriello have a good relationship, and I think that counts for something here.  Perhaps a call from Grossman to Lamoriello saying how much Zherdev wants to play for NJ?

5. Motivation

I think Zherdev would be quite motivated when playing either the Flyers and to a lesser degree the Rangers.  Plus, if the Devils pick up Zherdev and he flops, then so be it.  If he excels that's another knock on the Flyers and Rangers and their personnel management.  Being put through waivers seems to be a good motivational tool for a player (see Rolston, Brian and Salmela, Anssi)

6. It's ‘Buying' Without Really Doing It

I am the first person to say that the Devils should be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline.  That said, adding a player like Zherdev via waivers adds another weapon to the team without giving up a organization asset.  It makes the 3rd or 4th line much more dangerous and it allows the trade of a player like Jason Arnott (if he is to be traded) without a large drop in offensive production. 

 Opposing viewpoints

Many will say that he takes shifts off, doesn't play defense, doesn't fit the profile of a Devils player and that he can sometimes be an ‘enigma' (a word typically reserved for Russian players who the media feel isn't giving what they perceive a full effort on the ice).  Gee, who else would fit that description?

What would be the harm?  Besides Tedenby what other forward/winger in the bottom 6 would he not be an upgrade over.   Now, I would never put Tedenby and Zherdev on the same line (that would be Lemaire's worst nightmare) but Zherdev with a Pelley and Clarkson?   Why would that be a bad thing?

What are you thoughts?  Do you want no part of Zherdev?  Think he deserves a chance?  Sound off below.