Zherdev signs three-year deal with Columbus

Updated: September 28, 2006, 6:11 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Restricted free agent Nikolai Zherdev ended months of contentious negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, signing a three-year deal estimated to be worth more than $7 million.

Zherdev's signing returns one of the club's young stars to the fold after it appeared the Ukrainian right wing would spend the upcoming season in Russia.

Extremely popular with fans at Nationwide Arena, Zherdev often produced highlight-reel plays on offense.

"I am very happy to remain a Blue Jacket," Zherdev said in a statement. "I am excited about our team and look forward to joining my teammates in Columbus as soon as possible."

In two years with the Blue Jackets, Zherdev, who will turn 22 on Nov. 5, has scored 40 goals and added 48 assists in 130 games. He had 27 goals and 27 assists last season while leading the team in shots on goal and ranking second in goals and points.

The Blue Jackets were unsure when Zherdev would join the team, which opens the season Oct. 6 against Vancouver.

Zherdev had threatened to play for the Russian team Khimik Voskresenk, which plays its first game on Oct. 6. Columbus president and general manager Doug MacLean threatened to leave him there in what he called "a developmental league" and then pay him a fraction of what he already had offered.

MacLean's top offer for most of the summer was two years at $3.8 million. He raised the ante earlier this month to $6.9 million over three years, then pulled that off the table when Zherdev -- who made just under $1 million last season -- and agent Rolland Hedges came back asking for $8.5 million over the same span.

Hedges did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The signing was a positive note for a franchise that has lost Russian star Sergei Fedorov and countryman Alexander Svitov to shoulder injuries that might prevent them from starting the season.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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