Zherdev wants deal done now

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Nikolai Zherdev might be starring in a re-make of Goodbye Columbus, forsaking the Blue Jackets and the National Hockey League to play this season for Khimik in Russia.

Or he could be traded to an Eastern Conference team. Whatever the case, there's a contract stalemate with the Jackets and the restricted free-agent right winger's 'deadline' is nigh.

"If we don't have a deal by (this) week, he's playing in Russia," Zherdev's agent, Rolland Hedges, told the Columbus Post-Dispatch on Aug. 19.

Hedges said he was only echoing the Jackets' statement that it's vital to sign this month to renew Zherdev's massive immigration paperwork. Zherdev is seeking either a one-year deal between $1 million US and $2 million or a long term of three years or higher.

There are differing views of Zherdev's worth. Some say he's as valuable to the team as Rick Nash, equalling the latter's 54 points in 19 more games. But the Jackets have been using fellow 2003 first-round pick Nathan Horton as a comparable, even though the Florida Panther has been less effective because of shoulder problems. Rumours have begun that the Jackets will deal Zherdev, but for a minimum return of a young forward and a first-round draft pick.

SUGLOBOV IN SUPER SHAPE

A darkhorse at Maple Leafs camp will be winger Aleksander Suglobov, who made little impact here in three games after a trade deadline deal with the New Jersey Devils. But he has been a decent minor-league sniper, with 10 points in 15 Toronto Marlies games and a team-high seven points in five AHL playoff matches.

He joined the Leafs' informal workouts this week, after a full five-week camp with the Yaroslavl club three hours north West of Moscow

"(New York Islanders') Alexei Yashin and (Tampa's) Dmitry Afanasenkov were there and there were a lot of two-a-day workouts," Suglobov said yesterday. "I wasn't trying to lose weight or gain weight, just get in the best condition I've ever been in. We worked hard off the ice, too."

After three pro camps, the 24-year-old is hoping to get permanent NHL employment, hence his early arrival to get to know the team , the city and properly adjust to the time change.

"I want to be fresh for camp," he said.


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