Red, White and Blueshirts

Update on Zherdev (Updated)

As we reported on this site yesterday, Nik Zherdev’s decision to take the Rangers to arbitration may spell the end of his time in a blueshirt. Reports surfacing that Zherdev and his agent will ask for a salary of 4.5 million dollars for next season have caused many following the team to speculate today that if he is awarded that number that the Rangers will almost surely walk away from the decision, making him an unrestricted free agent and freeing up 3.25 million in cap space for the upcoming season. Personally, I have felt from the beginning that the Rangers should have offered this money to Nik Antropov (who signed a 4 year 16 million dollar deal with the Thrashers last week) in an attempt to re-sign the big winger rather than qualify Zherdev, who disappeared last season in the playoffs and at times looked disinterested while playing under head coach John Tortorella. If Zherdev loses his case, having him for one year in which he must prove his worth with a pending unrestricted free agency in his sights, may pay divideneds and finally motivate the enigmatic winger. If he wins and the team decides to part ways, there are a few different avenues the team might take in looking to replace Zherdev’s offensive production. The least expensive and possibly most exciting to Rangers fans might be to give Evgeny Grachev a shot to continue his offensive growth at the NHL level. If the team feels Grachev is not yet ready for prime time or is looking for a more proven commodity, they could look to veteran wingers Petr Sykora (who had 25 goals in 76 games last season with the Penguins and put up 16 goals and 31 points in 40 games in his other stint with the team in 2005-06) or Miroslav Satan (who had 17 goals last season with the Penguins) who could probably be had for one year deals at a very cap friendly price. The team could even go way outside the box and convince former All-Star Mark Parrish (who finished last season in Dallas and has scored 20+ goals six times in his career) to sign with the team on a two way deal for the minimum hoping to maybe pull a diamond from the scrap heap. Another possible move should Zherdev leave is to revisit the Dany Heatley trade situation (highly unlikely still because of the Rangers reluctance to part with any of their prized prospects and Senators GM Bryan Murray’s absurd asking price, which even with his lack of leverage, seems to grow steeper each day) but some money would have to be moved in order to fit his contract in cap wise.

There has been no other news on the Rangers possible pursuit of Saku Koivu and Sergei Zubov or of any movement on rumored possible trades involving Dallas’ Brad Richards or San Jose’s Patrick Marleau. If any word on these moves or others come down, we’ll have all the details for you right here.

For more on the Zherdev situation check out Larry Brooks in the NY Post here or here.

UPDATE (4:35 PM)- Although he was never a Ranger, Joe Sakic signed an offer sheet  with the Rangers that if it wasn’t ultimately matched by Colorado would have changed the history of the franchise. Reports out of Colorado say that Sakic will announce his retirement from the NHL at a press conference on Thursday. We will have more on this news after his announcement. Congratulations on a classy Hall of Fame career Mr. Sakic.


Blue Monday (Updated)

While rumors continue to swirl about whether the Rangers are interested in pursuing Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev or Sergei Zubov, nothing seems to be imminent on that front. The most interesting news out of Rangers camp is that forwards Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan have both elected to take the team to salary arbitration for the upcoming season. I believe the Rangers would like to get Callahan under contract long term and will probably be able to do so and avoid a hearing with a deal that is both cap friendly and will make Callahan feel appreciated. The bigger story is Zherdev’s status. There have been reports of Zherdev having interest in returning to Russia to play in the KHL and of possible concerns within the Rangers organization over whether Zherdev can perform and co-exist with head coach John Tortorella in his new up tempo system. There are even indications that the team may walk away from the winger (making him and unrestricted free agent) should he be awarded a contract that does not fit into the team’s salary plans for next season. There is still a chance that the team comes to terms with the enigmatic yet talented winger before arbitration but it seems unlikely and this situation may turn ugly before a resolution is ultimately reached.

Nikolai Zherdev

Nikolai Zherdev

In other more positive news, Zherdev and prospect Artem Anisimov were invited to participate in the upcoming 2010 Russian Olympic Orientation camp. The invitation is a another sign that Anisimov (who registered 37 goals and 44 assists with Hartford of the AHL last season) may be well on his way to making an impact with the big club this upcoming season. Former Rangers Dmitri Kalinin and Alexei Kovalev were invited as well.

If any news breaks, we will be here to report it today and tomorrow will be the first of our Prospect Spotlight series which will feature NYR youngsters that the team is counting on to make an impact in the organization’s future.

For an explanation of the salary arbitration process and which facts teams and players are allowed and forbidden to use to make their cases, check out Blue Notes here. For more on possible Rangers target UFA Alexei Kovalev and his somewhat contentious departure from the Canadiens, check out TSN here.

UPDATE (2:30 PM) is reporting Christopher Higgins has come to terms with the New York Rangers on a new contract. Higgins, acquired from Montreal for Scott Gomez, was a restricted free agent. ESPN is reporting it is a one year deal worth $2.25 million.

UPDATE (4:25 PM) Apparently, Alexei Kovalev will not be making a return to Broadway as he has signed a 2 year 10 million dollar deal with the Ottawa Senators. For more details click here.