As of July 21, 2011, neither Nikolay Zherdev nor Kyle Wellwood had received NHL offers for the upcoming season. Did going to Russia cut too many ties for them to find a place through the old boys network? I think that’s likely. Not in the “we hate you for going to the KHL” sense. Zherdev, is, after all, Ukranian. It’s just that when you leave the party people tend to start forgetting you. They don’t save you a seat. Just ask Nabby.
Despite having left the NHL, however briefly, they didn’t make enemies of their teams’ fanbases when they got back. That should count for something.
I was going to say Zherdev and Wellwood don’t have a whole lot in common but the more I think about it, the more I see that’s not true. Everybody knows that a Scorpio and a Taurus are as alike as an apple and a kumquat, but aside from that:
- They both came back from the KHL last year
- Neither got much in the way of minutes last season
- They both have some noteworthy skills to balance their shortcomings
- No NHL GM is calling them.
They don’t warrant the same kind of money. Zherdev is presumed to be asking for $2M, Wellwood something closer to League minimum. Actually, that’s a little bit strange. Maybe you get paid more for having a bad reputation?
Where Zherdev would be expected to score more than Wellwood, Wellwood makes up for it by not allowing so much scoring by the opposition. Wellwood played a higher percentage of games after being acquired than Zherdev did-his coach liked him better, or had fewer options. Welly averaged 2.7 points per game played, Z averaged 2.5. Welly had 7 points in 18 playoff games, Z had 3 in 8 games. By the end of the regular season, Welly had a +/- rating of 10, Z’s was 5. Even without those numbers, from the criticisms of Zherdev’s defensive game, we could have guessed that.
Nonetheless, Zherdev’s numbers are better than you would expect from the audible whining:
There aren’t many good reasons to keep Nikolay Zherdev off your hockey team, and they certainly aren’t apparent in any of his advanced numbers, which highlight the fact that he’s quite valuable at both ends of the ice. -Cam Charron, The Leafs Nation
Even in his extremely small portion of ice time last season, Zherdev was a contributor on the offensive side of the puck. He only had 22 points, but given the fact that he played mostly on the fourth line and saw only about 12:51 of ice time per game in those 56 games he saw the ice, that’s rather impressive. -Travis Hughes, SB Nation
Ryan Bright suggests that personality is the main reason Zherdev has not gotten an offer yet:
The reason could be that general managers around the league want a brother in arms, not a soldier of fortune. -Ryan Bright, Philadelphia Sports Daily
Hah. Well if that’s true, most of those GMs are shameless hypocrites. You don’t sell your brother down the river like some rent-a-bro program and still expect jolly back slapping fun year in, year out. Better to overpay Nick Wallin for the sake of team spirit than…
I digress. This isn’t about Paul Holmgren.
I don’t think personality is enough to explain Zherdev’s lack of offers. Perhaps that newsworthy domestic dispute marked him as a lot more than standoffish or “unlikeable.” He might be viewed as a PR liability. Nonetheless, I think that story was a little overblown and no one got hurt. I don’t believe it is the real Why behind Zherdev’s lack of offers either.
Despite a host of hockey fans obsessing over Wellwood’s weight like a bunch of teenage meangirls, he proved himself useful, hard-working and by all accounts congenial in the locker room with the Sharks. His history puts him on my list of players I particularly want to see succeed, but I’m not sure how widely known that history is. He isn’t such a celebrity that everyone knows all about him.
Unlike Zherdev, he didn’t “bolt” to the KHL in the midst of a rising career. The Canucks let him go and he had little choice if he wanted to keep playing. He returned to North America ASAP.
He brought a degree of finesse to the Sharks’ third line that the team desperately needed:
..Wellwood absolutely destroyed his weak competition while he was on the ice. Wellwood posted some of the best numbers on the San Jose Sharks after you account for his ice time, and there’s a very easy case to be made that he is a player more than worthy of a contract proposal this offseason.” -Mr Plank, Fear the Fin
The only knock on him is his actual size. Many Sharks fans seem prepared to overlook that if he were to re-sign for a modest salary. The Sharks have a bunch of big guys who can fill out the lower lines, there might still be a place for Wellwood in teal.
So why don’t they have any offers yet? Has the game shifted ever so slightly so as to squeeze Wellwood and Zherdev out of the limelight? Why would other third and fourth liners have been snapped up as they have been, with these two left out in the cold? Or was it just a matter of cutting ties by going to the KHL?
Where will they go? What will they do? Evidently, NHL GMs don’t give a damn. I do, they were on “my teams.”