Nikolai Zherdev could be the Flyers' latest off-the-wall acquisition this offseason.
Yesterday, news services in Russia reported that the Flyers and Zherdev - a Ukrainian-born free agent who spent last season in Moscow - have come to an agreement to bring the skilled but aloof scorer back to the NHL.
But as of last night, no deal had been reached. Two league sources and one Flyers source told the Daily News yesterday that the Flyers and Zherdev's agent, Igor Popov, have been talking and appear to be close to a deal. One source said he expects the Flyers to sign the free agent today.
Zherdev, 25, skated with the Atlant Mystishchi, of the Kontinental Hockey League, last season after winning an arbitration settlement with the New York Rangers worth $4 million, a price too rich for the Rangers' salary cap.
This summer, Zherdev reportedly was seeking a long-term deal worth the same amount. Boston and Buffalo are two other NHL teams that reportedly have kicked the tires with Zherdev's agent.
No source was able to confirm the dollar amount or terms of the Flyers' negotiations, though the consensus is it is less than Zherdev's asking price.
At 6-2, Zherdev would fit in nicely in the Flyers' depth chart at right wing. Over his last two NHL seasons, Zherdev posted 49 goals and 70 assists. He had 26 goals and 35 assists with Columbus in 2007-08, and 23-35 with the Rangers in 2008-09.
Few expected the Flyers to be in the hunt for Zherdev; they do not normally court players with character question marks. Then again, no one could have prognosticated that Jody Shelley, Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros would be a part of the Flyers after one week of free agency.
Zherdev's talent remains unquestioned but critics question his work ethic and consistency. Some say he was not a favorite teammate in the Blue Jackets' locker room, a subject that was reported on during his time in Columbus.
After a 54-point sophomore season in 2005-06, Zherdev posted just 32 points in 71 games. He then rebounded to nearly double that total the following season before being traded to New York.
Last season, in the comparatively low-scoring KHL, Zherdev netted 39 points in 52 games - tied for 25th in the league.
The signing of Zherdev would officially mark the end of the Simon Gagne era in Philadelphia after 10 seasons. Last week, Gagne agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Gagne is due $5.25 million next season, his last year under contract with the Flyers.
Zherdev's signing would put the Flyers over the salary cap. They currently have $578,000 in space with Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo remaining as restricted free agents. Teams are allowed to be a maximum of 10 percent over the $59.4 million hard cap until the first day of the regular season on Oct. 7.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.