Russian web site Sports Planet is reporting that unrestricted free agent Nikolai Zherdev has signed with the Moscow-area club Atlant of the KHL. At the moment, however, it’s nothing more than another unsubstantiated rumor, as there has been no confirmation of the signing on Atlant’s web site.
The Sports Planet article cites no source, and seems to weigh the fact that Zherdev has been seen at Atlant’s home arena while the team is away on a road trip as evidence in favor of their report. But Zherdev has been spotted at the arena numerous times in the past month as he prepares for the upcoming season.
The Sports Planet article also suggests that the presence of Zherdev’s former junior coach, Ravil Iskhakov, on the Atlant staff was influential in the signing.
This is not the first “Zherdev to Atlant” rumor that’s surfaced this off-season. Earlier in the summer Iskhakov went on record saying Zherdev might begin preparing for the season with Atlant — as he did in 2006 when contract negotiations with Columbus dragged out.
Zherdev has gone on record numerous times this summer saying he wants to continue his career in the NHL and most recently was hopeful a deal could be worked out with the Atlanta Thrashers. However, that deal appears to have stalled as the Thrashers are said to be waiting to see how top prospect Evander Kane performs in training camp before handing Zherdev his potential roster spot.
Just yesterday, Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported that Zherdev’s agent contacted New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather to offer his client’s services for the original $3.25m qualifying offer he and his client refused earlier this summer. According to Brooks, his offer was refused.
Atlant isn’t one of the KHL’s deep pocket teams, so it’s unlikely they’d be able to pay Zherdev anywhere near the $3.9m he was awarded by an arbitrator this summer. For now, it would appear Atlant will remain Zherdev’s fall-back option, a last resort should a deal with an NHL club fail to materialize. Iâ€™m not sure heâ€™s at that point just yet, regardless of Sports Planets report.
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