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Jets may land former Flyers forward

Zherdev possesses skills, some baggage

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He's got considerable skills and was once regarded as one of the NHL's best young prospects.

But right now Nikolai Zherdev is without a hockey address, although that could change as early as this week.

Zherdev's agent told the Free Press via email that a decision on where Zherdev's future lies -- either in the KHL with Moscow-based Mytishchi Atlant or with the Winnipeg Jets -- could come to a resolution possibly by Friday.

Selected fourth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2003 NHL entry draft, the 26-year-old Russian winger has hit the 20-goal mark three times in seven seasons and has 115 career goals in 421 games.

He had 16 goals and six assists in 56 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season while pulling in US$2 million. A product of Kiev, Ukraine, Zherdev has already told a Russian newspaper he would be open to playing in Winnipeg.

The knock on Zherdev has been that he hasn't scratched the surface on all his talent and there have been some criticisms that he didn't mesh well with his team, although he is also said to be extremely shy.

Said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren at the end of last season:

"(Zherdev was) kind of an outsider here. I think some of that is a language barrier and I think some of that is just how he is. I asked him yesterday why he had a car service all year. Why wouldn't you ask one of your teammates to give you a ride? He's just a different guy."

All that said, the Jets are looking for more offensive punch and Zherdev would be a candidate for a spot on the team's top two lines. Interestingly, in his best season -- 2007-08 with Columbus -- Zherdev had 61 points and that was the same season current Jets' boss Claude Noel ended the season as the Blue Jackets head coach.

MORE HELP FROM UND: The Jets organization has added another product of the University of North Dakota, signing former Sioux defenceman Jake Marto to a one-year contract.

According to the Grand Forks Herald, Marto has signed a minor-league deal that will see him with either the AHL's St. John's IceCaps or the Colorado Eagles of the East Coast Hockey League. Marto told the Herald a few teams had shown interest in him, but he had chatted with Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger. Heisinger had also watched Marto play for the Sioux several times while he was running the show for the Manitoba Moose.

"He kept me informed as the summer went along and we got something finalized a couple of weeks ago," Marto said. "I'm very excited. I was patient and let things kind of happen. I'm not sure what to expect, just taking it day by day. Whenever I get the opportunity, I've just got to jump on it and show what I can do. Hopefully, I can stay in the 'A'.

A former North Dakota Mr. Hockey winner as the top high-school player in the state, Marto recently completed a four-year career with the Sioux. He had 62 points (21 goals) in 157 games.

Earlier this summer the Jets also signed Jason Gregoire, another UND product who hails from Winnipeg. UND officially announced its 2011-12 schedule on Monday and the docket of games includes a game against Clarkson at the MTS Centre on Jan. 7.

ANOTHER VOICE IN THE MIX?: A source in the broadcast industry said Manitoba product Dennis Beyak, the radio voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs since 1998, is a contender for the play-by-play gig with the Jets. The deal with TSN radio and TV is expected to be announced soon, as are details of whether the televised games would be simulcast or whether there would be separate voices for radio and TV play-by-play.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2011 C4

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