We're down to two RFAs that the illustrious Doug MacLean has yet to sign...Dan Fritsche and the well noted Nikolai Zherdev. Personally, I'm not overly worried about each, it's August afterall, signing them today isn't going to put many pucks in the net next week.
Fritsche will likely fall into line fairly soon, he doesn't have a huge amount of leverage in the negotiation of his second contract. He's played a fair share of NHL games sooner than most thought he would, and he's been a servicable NHLer, but the production isn't there to be playing much hardball. Danny will sign soon enough, I'm sure.
Zherdev, though...this one seems much more interesting. TSN covered it well today, following on the Dispatch yesterday. Nicky is threatening to play in Russia for the year...a place he couldn't WAIT to get out of three years ago. Snuck out in the middle of the night with his skates and what he was wearing. Sounds like a guy who'd LOVE to play a season in the RSL, doesn't it?
MacLean is playing hardball, and I think rightfully so. Zherdev's poor, underperforming start last year isn't some great secret. With Nasher out, he had every chance to step up and be The Man for the Jackets, and he'd take nights off. Was demoted to the 3rd and 4th line, even healthy scratched a couple times. Didn't seem to have much of an effect on him, he just kept doing his thing. The arrival of Fedorov and the return of Nash turned not only Z around, but the whole team. He went on a tear, starting arguably with his end to end rush through the Blackhawks the day after Christmas.
But, how does all that factor in now? Doug is using Oct and Nov of last year as his, "Zherdev needs to prove something," stance. Zherdev is using the rest of the season as proof that he has proved something. Personaly, I'm with Doug...play a full 82 games and the money will fall in your lap, Nicky.
The kid has unreal talent and potential, but tapping it through that thick skull has proven tricky so far, and this just seems to be the latest chapter.