The loss of Alexi Cherepanov no matter how tragic is going to hurt for a while but no amount of mourning is going to bring him back, that is the cold hard facts. The task now for the Rangers becomes how best to move forward and fill the void among the prospect pipeline.
Yes losing Cherepanov opens a hole among the prospect pipeline but there is a player who is already on the Rangers who in his own way will ease the loss of Cherepanov. We are of course talking about Nickolai Zherdev who is showing the signs that at 23 he is finally maturing into an NHL player with the Rangers.
While others thought the trade for Zherdev was a risky gamble on the part of the Rangers, we felt that in his own way Zherdev was an insurance policy just in case with Cherepanov did not sign with the Rangers.
See despite what the Rangers are saying in public about Cherepanov coming over next season; at the same time there is no way that given the way the KHL operates and their own experiences with the general manager of the Avangard Omsk Anatoly Bardin that signing Cherepanov was a sure thing. The Omsk held a huge dollar advantage over the Rangers if they wanted to keep Cherepanov.
According to the current NHL/NHLPA CBA, the Rangers were limited in how much they could offer Cherepanov, that they were put into a position where they had no choice but to offer Cherepanov at best a 3 year 2 way Entry Level contract. Please note the part about "2 way" as if Cherepanov had to go to Hartford then he would be paid not the NHL salary levels but at AHL levels.
That was an ace in the hole that Omsk held that the Rangers were in no position to beat and let us also remind people that quality wise the KHL still remains a distant second to the NHL. Not trying to speak ill of the recently departed but Cherepanov was just 19 and very green still.
And as cold as this will seem to some then Nickolai Zherdev now becomes the most important prospect/player that the Rangers have in the system. Considering what it cost the Rangers (Tyutin and Backman) that trade was a monster of a bargain.
As we have been saying since Zherdev joined the Rangers, keep Zherdev off the first line and allow him to fix the holes in his development and watch him grow. Does anyone have any complaints about Zherdev's play over the first 6 games?
Put it into perspective that Zherdev was poorly developed by Columbus, that he is just 23 and as Ranger fans have clearly seen not the lazy player that people have portrayed him to be. The 4th pick out of the 2003 NHL draft has put up numbers that compared to those selected by him (Nathan Horton 193 points in 290 games, Thomas Vanek 196 in 245 to Zherdev's 183 in 283) are not all that bad.
Putting Zherdev with Dubinsky on the second line just might have been the smartest decision that Tom Renney will ever make as Ranger's coach as the two players have helped each other tremendously on and off the ice. Dubinsky is helping Zherdev adapt and adjust to the New York lifestyle while Zherdev is building a chemistry that Zherdev never really could develop with Rich Nash while they were in Columbus.
Think back to the 2007 NHL Draft as the main reason why Cherepanov fell to the Rangers at 17 was that all the teams picking in front of the Rangers did not think they could sign Cherepanov. Cherepanov was rated as a Top 5 talent and given the current state of the Rangers that unless the Rangers have an epic collaspe that drafting in the 18th to back end of the draft is where they will be picking come the 2009 draft.
And as cold as this is going to come across what just happened to Cherepanov is going to play a role in why we believe that Zherdev is going to want to stay with the Rangers. Zherdev knows what it is like to play in Russia and while he played there during the lockout, he has not shown any interest in returning to play there.
In New York, Zherdev can blend into the background when he is not playing, he has the Russian/Ukrainian communities where he can feel at home and he has new found friends Dubinsky and Aaron Voros looking out for him.
Zherdev never had any of that going for him with Columbus so when you factor everything together then a happy maturing Zherdev can make up for the loss of Cherepanov today and tomorrow.
What we hope the Rangers do not do come the 2009 is overpay to move up in the draft trying to make up for losing Cherepanov as that never works.
Only Chris Doyle was in action on Wednesday night and despite 2 assists, Doyle's Prince Edward Island Rocket dropped a 4-3 decision to David Stich and his Saint Johns Sea Dogs.
The Rocket dug themselves into a 3-1 hole that they were able to rally back to a 3-3 tie but were unable to find that game winning goal and eventually gave up a late goal in the 2nd period that stood up as the game winner for the Sea Dogs.
It does appear that the Chris Doyle at center time is coming to an end as Doyle took only 8 faceoffs going 3-5 for the night.
Overall Doyle's numbers are now 5-7-12 which increases his lead as the leading scorer among Ranger prospects but we still want to see more out of Doyle starting with some hitting more shooting.
(Pictures Zherdev-New York Rangers, Doyle-PEI)
32 minutes ago