The Philadelphia Flyers have a, shall we say, interesting history with Russian players.
The Philadelphia Flyers have shown a willingness to dip their toes into international waters recently, with April’s signing of Swedish winger Linus Sandin being the latest example. We’ll see how that one works out. Maybe it will be relatively successful, like the move the Flyers made way back in 2013 to bring in Michael Raffl, who remains on the team to this day.
Let’s just hope that Sandin doesn’t end up like three international botch jobs from the past decade, all of which involved the Flyers plucking a player from Russia’s KHL only to end up regretting it.
The first such instance came in 2010, when the Flyers signed Nikolai Zherdev, who was a five-year NHL veteran (and three-time 20-goal scorer) but had gone back home for a season after he didn’t receive a contract offer to his liking. He was looking to make an NHL comeback and signed with the Flyers for $2 million on a one-year deal, which seemed reasonable. Zherdev seemed like a square peg in a round hole almost instantly, however, and head coach Peter Laviolette buried him in the lineup, not exactly a fan of Zherdev’s me-first style of play.
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Zherdev would only post 22 points in 56 games that regular season (and was put on waivers at one point), then three points in eight playoff contests before the Flyers were ousted in the second round. The team made no attempt to re-sign him, which didn’t come as a surprise. In fact, owner Ed Snider was so displeased by memories of Zherdev that he initially refused to let Jakub Voracek wear the number 93 when the Flyers acquired him, feeling that Zherdev had tainted the number.
Zherdev played a few seasons back in the KHL after his time in Philly, and he never resurfaced in North America again. His post-NHL life has been filled with events such as barfights, car crashes, and a divorce. Yikes.
The Philadelphia Flyers shied away from the KHL for a couple of years after the Zherdev experiment, but they went fishing once again in 2015 and landed defenseman Evgeny Medvedev. Honestly, to this day, I don’t know what this guy was supposed to provide. He was tall and thin, but wasn’t particularly fast, didn’t have a big shot, wasn’t a lockdown-type defenseman, and wasn’t a power-play quarterback.
Other than that, he had it all.
In truth, Medvedev’s one season with the Flyers (just 45 games) was more bleh than bad, as he produced 12 points and a +5 rating. But he was a regular healthy scratch by season’s end, and he didn’t even appear in any of the Flyers’ six playoff games that spring. Weeks later, he erased all doubt about whether or not the team might possibly being him back when he was arrested for DUI. Not that anyone was disappointed to see him go, but the occasion gave GM Ron Hextall the perfect chance to say “No thanks”.
After the Medvedev failure, you’d think that the Flyers would be done with the KHL for a bit, but they weren’t dissuaded, signing forward Roman Lyubimov almost immediately after Medvedev’s contract had officially expired. Lyubimov was a depth player at best, but the Flyers were impressed enough to keep him on the roster, figuring that his $925,000 salary was worth taking a shot.
In the end, though, Lyubimov’s impact was close to zero. He mustered only six points in 47 games, playing a paltry 9:35 per night in what turned out to be a lousy, non-playoff season for the Flyers. The team made no attempt to re-sign him, and Lyubimov even cited a chance to play for Russia in the 2018 Olympics as the main reason why he was headed back to the KHL, since the NHL had announced they wouldn’t be sending its players that year. Postscript: He did not make that team.
It remains to be seen if the Philadelphia Flyers ever again turn their attention toward Russia’s KHL in at attempt to bolster their club with veteran players. If they do, you can be sure they’ll take the utmost care in an attempt to avoid failures like this sad trio from the past decade.