Inevitably, as soon as the Rangers decided to walk away from Zherdev the cries from Leaf Nation went up for Burke to complete his last obvious step which was to bring in another top 6 forward.
While the Leafs do have the cap space to absorb another roughly $4million a season for the 24 year old Zherdev...is it worth it?
While many would place Zherdev in the top tier of League talent his production does not coincide with his obvious natural ability.
However, the make-up of the Leafs top 6 seems to accomodate Zherdev well. However, by signing Zherdev and not trading for a top 6 the competition for jobs and NHL talent not playing further grows in the Leafs ranks.
It also limits the opportunities for youth to step into the line-up and play important minutes.
A line-up with Zherdev could possibly present what finally might be considered a 1st line:
Ponikarovsky-Grabovski-Zherdev (all former Soviet Union born talent).
The rest of the line-up might look like:
As you can see the bottom lines start to get crowded and we aren't talking about the blueline which already boasts too many NHL Dmen.
So then Burke is charged with dealing NHL talent for picks or leaving them on the Marlies with waivers a real concern for liqudating talent for nothing.
That being said, does the potential former USSR line of Ponikarovsky, Grabovski, and Zherdev provide enough high end skill to create the kind of offensive presence the Leafs have lacked for a long time?
I have to think that this line would tempt Burke into offering a 3 year deal similar to Grabovski's to try and lure the young, ultra-talented top 6 player into the Leafs fold and then deal with the consequences later.
He's big, fast, strong and when he wants to play conjures up images of a young Kovalchuk...when he doesn't want to play he conjures up images of Alexei Yashin.
This is a high risk/high reward situation that merits consideration from a Leafs team currently accused of lacking the necessary skill to compete for a playoff spot. An addition of Zherdev's calibre for a 1 year- 3 year period could end up being one of Burke's wisest or weakest moves.
I believe by signing Zherdev, regardless of term or dollars, the Leafs generate an incredibly exciting top line and help the Leafs legitimately challenge for the playoffs this year.