June 12th was the deadline for all KHL teams (except for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and KHL Medvescak) to provide five players they would release into the expansion draft for the new eastern Russian team Admirals Vladivostok. The KHL did not release the names of players available in the expansion draft, but two teams—Oblast Moscow and Traktor Chelyabinsk (Chelyabinsk, Russia)—decided to release the players they made available. One surprising name came out of the group of ten: Nikolay Zherdev.
Columbus Blue Jackets
In 2003, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Zherdev with the fourth pick overall. Part way through the Russian Superleague (now the KHL) season, Zherdev left his Russian club and played 57 games in Columbus, scoring 13 goals and 21 assists. After the 2004 lockout, the talented forward put in 73 games for the Blue Jackets and scored 54 points. The 2006-2007 was dismal for Zherdev’s standards, helping with only ten goals in 72 games and finishing -19.
In 2007, Zherdev sought an extension and the talks became quite contentious as the forward sought a long-term deal and Columbus wanted him to prove if the was the 54 point first-round talent they selected or a ten goal role player. They eventually agreed on a three-year deal and it paid off for Columbus immediately. 2007-2008 saw Zherdev score 61 points in 82 games, but Columbus would miss the playoffs.
New York Rangers
In a trade giving up two defensemen, Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman (no longer in the NHL), Zherdev made his debut with the Rangers (along with Dan Fritsche—no longer in the NHL). He would play all 82 games and keep pace with his previous season in Columbus: 23 goals and 35 assists. It would also be his only full NHL season where he had a positive plus/minus rating.
After his only season in the Big Apple, Zherdev became a restricted free agent. The Rangers were unhappy with his salary number after arbitration and released him, leading to his move back to Moscow. After one season, he tried for a comeback in the NHL on a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
In 56 games and 8 playoff games, Zherdev made a solid contribution. A $2 million salary, 22 point contribution and clutch play against the Sabres in the playoffs was not enough to keep Zherdev in the United States.
Where is Nikolay Zherdev now?
Technically, Nikolay Zherdev is still in his second stint with Atlant Moscow Oblast. After playing 39 games with Oblast as team captain, he was transferred to Eastern Conference Champion Ak Bars Kazan (Kazan, Tartarstan, Russia) just before the playoffs. There, he scored 6 points in the final 11 games and 8 points in the playoffs, where Kazan would lose in Game 7 of the Conference Championships.
In the offseason, he was transferred back to Oblast Moscow. On June 12th, it was announced that Zherdev would be available in the expansion draft for Admirals Vladivostok. The KHL will announce whether he will make the move east on June 17th.