Homer's gamble: Waiving Zherdev

    Nik Zherdev’s peculiar career with the Flyers seems over.

    Oh, he can still clear waivers and the Flyers can still decide to keep him on the roster and put him back in the lineup.

     Yeah, and Bernie Parent is coming back to play goal against the New York Islanders Thursday night at the almost-down Spectrum.

      Zherdev, 26, never fit in with the Flyers.  Or the media.

     He kept to himself. Pretended not to understand English. Gave one-word answers to reporters’ questions.

      Usually with a goofy smirk.
      He was a loner in the locker room, and someone who sometimes seemed allergic to playing defense or passing the puck.
    But the guy could flat-out find the back of the net _ and figured to be one of the pieces that would help the Flyers make a run at their first Stanley Cup since 1975.

       Well, the Flyers will continue their merry skate toward that elusive title, but the man they called “Z” won't have his name engraved on the Cup, even if it finally does return to South Philly.

      The Flyers cut their losses Wednesday and waived Zherdev, whom they will probably send to the Phantoms if he clears waivers at noon on Thursday.

      The gained cap space ($2 million) could help them pursue a veteran winger or depth defenseman before Monday’s trade deadline.

       Just a few days ago, general manager Paul Holmgren said he would be reluctant to deal Zherdev because he was "insurance" in case a forward was injured.
       Made perfect sense.

       But it turned out the Flyers thought the moody Zherdev was such a detriment in the locker room that they would just part ways and hope to clear cap room.
       It’s a major risk, of course.

        For all his warts, Zherdev was a finisher. He had 15 goals in 47 games and averaged just 12½ minutes per contest.

         That’s one of the best goals-per-time-on-ice rates in the NHL _ and that’s a nice insurance policy if a top-9 forward goes down with an injury.

         As it stands now, Eric Wellwood, who has a lot of moxie in his game but doesn't exactly provide instant offense, would probably be the first forward recalled from the Phantoms, if necessary.

         Yeah, I'd rather have Zherdev, too.

         You can argue Zherdev became somewhat expendable when the Flyers recently acquired Kris Versteeg, a two-way player with a much better all-around game that Z.

       Still, Holmgren is rolling the dice. And if the offense, which has sputtered lately, goes through a lull in the playoffs, the second-guessers will come crawling out of the woodwork.

        That said, it’s tough to argue with Holmgren’s “feel” for the situation. In recent years, the GM has made a litany of great moves that have brought the Flyers from last in the NHL to the top of the Eastern Conference.

     Holmgren gambled when he signed Zherdev in the off-season. He knew his track record. He knew the winger had excellent offensive talent, but that he had a reputation for dogging it. I guess he thought coach Peter Laviolette, the driven one, could snap him to attention.

      If Laviolette couldn’t do it, I guess no one can.

* * *

   Wtik Oskars Bartulis likely out for the season with a shoulder injury, might the Flyers turn to veteran Buffalo defenseman Craig Rivet?

    The Sabres placed Rivet, 36, on waivers Wednesday. Like Zherdev, he can clear wiaversa at noon on Thursday.

     On Wednesday, Rivet sat out his 17th straight game as a healthy scratch. He is owed about $865,000 for the rest of the season from his original $3.5 million salary, according to the Buffalo News.

     Rivet, Buffalo's captain the last three years, has three points and is minus-5 in 23 games this season. He played in 78 games last year and had 15 points and a minus-6 rating. 

      Phoenix' Scottie Upshall was suspended for two games for his hit that injured Bartulis in the Coyotes' 3-2 overtime win Tuesday.

    * * *

     For constant Flyers updates, contact Sam Carchidi on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.

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