A look at Vladimir Zharkov- How much money does he deserve?

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 10: Vladimir Zharkov #18 of the New Jersey Devils moves the puck around Andrew Ference #21 of the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on April 10, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With Zach Parise's contract extension coming up, the Devils need to find a way to keep Parise, as well as re-sign several players, including some depth players and role players. One of those players happens to be Vladimir Zharkov, a player may Devils fans had some expectations for offensively. However, he's been used a lot recently as a defensive forward by interim coach Jacques Lemaire, and has done a good job at it, albeit in somewhat limited time- about 35 seconds a game of shorthanded ice time. As a depth forward, being able to provide some relief on the PK would be helpful, especially because some of the Devils top forwards, such as Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac log lots of penalty kill minutes (both logged over 2 minutes/game this season).

The thing about Zharkov is that in his role as a depth/defensive forward, it's much harder to analyze a player on the basic stats (goals, assists, TOI/game), mainly because their contributions aren't easily measured with the "boxcar statistics". I'll take a look at Zharkov and some of his defensive numbers, and compare them to some of his peers after the jump to see how much he's worth. While he didn't play in all 82 games- mainly because he wasn't recalled until Lemaire returned behind the bench, most of the stats I plan on using are taken per 60 minutes of ice time anyways.

For my comparable forwards, I wanted to take a few things into consideration. All comparable forwards receive around 30-90 seconds of SH TOI/60, and most of them aren't exactly great offensively- the leading scorer amongst comparable forwards has 22 points- Andreas Nodl.

Name

GP

Blocks

Takeaways

Penalties Drawn/60

Penalties Taken/60

SH TOI/60

Zone start/fin %

Vladimir Zharkov

38

10

19

0.3

0.0

0:34

55.1/51.8

Zenon Konopka

82

52

18

1.1

2.0

1:27

30.2/48.8

Ryan Johnson

34

34

6

0.6

0.4

1:24

33.8/46.2

Rod Pelley

74

36

20

0.5

0.3

1:23

49.6/48.9

Jake Dowell

79

43

32

0.4

0.5

1:16

42.7/48.3

Kris Draper

47

11

16

0.3

0.8

0:51

48.8/44.0

Andreas Nodl

67

25

21

1.0

0.5

0:35

43.8/51.9

 

If there's one telling statistic here, it's that Zharkov might rely more on skill that grit when it comes to defense- while he hasn't drawn that many penalties (2 drawn over 38 games), he hasn't taken a lot of them either. When it comes to killing penalties, having a guy who can keep himself out of the box and avoid putting the team down another man while on the PK. He's also recorded 19 takeaways in 38 games, which is pretty impressive seeing as he averages around 11 minutes a game. While he does start in the offensive zone a lot, only 4 Devils regulars (Colin White, David Clarkson, David Steckel and Rod Pelley) start in the offensive zone less than 50% of the time

From the group of forwards I have, Andreas Nodl might be the best player to compare Zharkov to- he gets similar ice time, 13:15 seconds, which is about 2 minutes more than Zharkov, who's been used as a 4th liner. The difference might be who they play with- Nodl's most common linemates were James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards, two forwards with a lot of offensive skill who are solid defensively. Zharkov on the other hand, was used a lot with Jason Arnott and either Mattias Tedenby or Ilya Kovalchuk. While he did end up with Arnott and Tedenby for a period of 20 games, he ended up being used in a 4th line role with David Steckel and Adam Mair. While Zharkov won't benefit from good linemates (he'd probably be able to put up 15-20 points if he was on a line with Van Riemsdyk and Richards), they're both decent at creating turnovers and drawing penalties.

However, there is one problem- both Nodl and Zharkov are both on ELCs, which both have them making a similar amount of money (Zharkov has a lower base salary however) and both are RFAs who need new contracts. The Flyers are somewhat strapped in cap space- they enter next season with about $430 K in cap space and 18 players signed (side note: lol Meszaros), so they're probably going to try and get Nodl signed for cheap. Zharkov is a relatively unproven product offensively and at the NHL level- he's seen two stints with the team, and the Devils will have to consider if he's an NHL ready player.

However, there is some good news regarding Zharkov- the Devils can retain him at a lower price than his current cap hit. Per Capgeek, Zharkov's qualifying offer would be $577, 500- a sharp drop from the $850K he's making this season, because it's only a 10% raise of his base salary ($525 000). But with Parise's extension and the Devils lack of a legitimate puck moving defenseman, every little bit helps.

Conclusions: While Zharkov has yet to prove himself as a regular NHLer, he has proven to the team that he has some value to the team. However, like John mentioned in an earlier post, Zharkov has to compete with at least 11 NHLers for a roster spot, plus AHL forwards and invites as well. Because Zharkov is still eligible to sign a two-way contract (he hasn't played 3 seasons, he hasn't played in 60 games this season and he hasn't unsuccessfully cleared waivers), it also gives the Devils the option of a two-way deal, so that if he doesn't look NHL ready or someone outperforms him in training camp the Devils can send him down to Albany.

My offer- a 1 year, two way $600 K deal- a $75K raise from his base salary last season. If Zharkov makes the team (as the 12/13th forward), it won't be very expensive- he'd only be making $50k more than Rod Pelley does next season ($550 K), which is pretty acceptable for a guy who will be a 4th liner. If Zharkov doesn't make the team, they can send him down to Albany and recall him if one of the regular forwards gets hurt or they need a quick injury related recall. It's a low risk deal that won't hurt the team in the long run- which is good, especially because the team needs all the cap space they can get.

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