Zherdev may rejoin CSKA

By Aaron Vickers

Russian rookie sensation
Nikolai Zherdev is exploring a return to his former club, CSKA.

Zherdev made the announcement in a recent interview with Russian newspaper Sport-Express
that if a new
collective bargaining agreement isn’t in place for the beginning of
the 2003-04 National Hockey League season, he is extremely likely
to return to his former club and skate alongside fellow Columbus Blue
Jacket prospects Sergei Mozyakin and Dimitri Kosmachev, despite his colored history with the organization and the Russian Hockey
Federation.

It was the Russian Hockey Federation that took Nikolai Zherdev and the
Blue Jackets to arbitration over Zherdev leaving to join Columbus in
the earlier part of the 2003-04 season. The Federation claimed that
Zherdev was unable to leave the country based on not fulfilling
military obligations, a claim that was shot down by Stephan Netzle, an
independent arbitrator from Switzerland who ruled in favor of the Blue Jackets
organization.

Zherdev, after spending the majority of his ice time relegated to third
and fourth line duty, coupled with off-ice problems, left Russia and
CSKA literally overnight, turning up in Ottawa, Canada before finally
relocating in Columbus and joining the team that had selected him
fourth overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

It is still uncertain, however, if Zherdev will in fact join his former club
if former coach Viktor Tikhonov returns to run the organization. It was
under Tikhonov that Zherdev struggled to find quality ice time, and a
primary reason for Zherdev fleeing the Russian Hockey Federation.
Tikhonov’s reputation certainly precedes him, as several high
profile Russian stars have refused to compete in international
competition for their native land with Tikhonov at the helm.

Ironically enough, it was in a November 2003 interview with Dmitri
Kuvshinov of Hockey’s Future affiliate RussianProspects.com,
that part of Zherdev’s decision to spend the 2003-04 season in Russia
was “because I want to try myself with the club under the
helm of a coach such as Viktor Vasilievich Tikhonov.”

It was Tikhonov again who did not extend the invitation to Zherdev to
join Russia for the 2004 World Championships. It will not be Tikhonov,
however, who coaches Russia in the World Cup this summer, and although Zherdev has not been named to the
original team, there is the distinct possibility he
could be joining the club in the case of an injury or other loss of personnel.

The lack of an invitation to Zherdev may have been a retaliatory shot
at the Kiev, Ukraine native passing on the opportunity to captain
Russia at the 2004 World Junior Championships, coached by Rafail
Ishmatov. Zherdev, possibly acting in his own best interests and
safety, remained in North America with the Columbus Blue Jackets during
this time, while Russia went on to finish a disappointing fifth. Given
the uncertainty of Zherdev’s case at the time, it wasn’t even
known if he would’ve been allowed to return to North America and the
Columbus Blue Jackets after the tournament had finished.

Zherdev, the Blue Jackets top prospect, is said to already be practicing with
CSKA-2 this offseason.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.