The scene was the offseason before 2006-2007 season. Newly hired GM Scott Howson just returned from a personal trip to Ottawa with one purpose - resurrect Nikolai Zherdev.
Zherdev was coming off a holdout season in which he scored 10g, 22a for 32p and a -19. Howson knew for the Jackets to have any kind of success in the upcoming season he had to get buy in from the enigmatic winger.
Perhaps even more importantly was if Howson ever hoped to trade Zherdev and get something of value in return he knew he needed a much better performance from the former 2003 4th overall draft pick. They needed to not only resurrect the play of Zherdev but to rebuild his value on the market.
The first step was to show Zherdev the organization has confidence in him and views him as an integral piece to the coming season. Thoughts I'm sure were passed along on Howson's Ottawa visit.
The second step was to let his Stanley Cup winning career coach Ken Hitchcock sink his meat hooks into him. The question was what would come out of the Hithcock player processing plant -- a oscar meyer weiner or a filet mignon?
Hitch certainly didn't produce a filet mignon but he most certainly didn't produce weiner either.
I would say Zherdev's career high 26g 35a for 61p put him right in that Texas Roadhouse t-bone steak category.
That season made him just a juicy enough target for some GMs to wet their appetite's over.
If you recall the previous day the Jackets had swung and missed on Wade Redden. They pushed real hard for him but ultimately lost out to the bright lights and original 6 allure of the New York Rangers.
Ultimately that turned out to be the best non-deal in the Jackets 9 year history as the following day Howson received a call from Glen Sather who had too many defensemen signed and not enough cap space to address their offensive holes.
The Jackets had long since coveted defensemen Fedor Tyutin and to make the deal work had to swallow Christian Backman's 3.5 mil for a year. A few phone calls and trade proposals later and a deal was struck.
The final deal?
The Jackets would send Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche over to the Rangers in exchange for Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman.
Howson was absolutely hammered by many in the hockey community including a good number of the Jackets faithful. Many questioned how could Howson deal his second leading scorer on a team that couldn't score goals as it was for a 2nd pairing defensemen? Certainly a fair question at the time.
Instead of re-typing what I think my thoughts were at the time I'll just paste them straight from that post:
Zherdev is/was not in this team's long term plans. You have to remember that when evaluating this deal. If there is any doubt about that he was it was answered this afternoon.
He has been rumored to be on the move looong before today. The biggest knock on him was his inconsistency. He was a dis-connected player that did not fit the mold that this team moving towards. He razzled he dazzled but when the game got tough he disappeared most nights. The Jackets loved his talent - hated his competitiveness. He was never going to be re-signed after his contract expired next season and he certainly did not have the value that many think he did.
Sure he turned it around and had a much better season last year - at least the first 3/4ths of it until he packed it in. Heck, this time last year Z wouldn't have returned a 2nd round pick.
The Jackets are moving in a new direction. They know the kind of team they want to build and Z isn't a part of that.
Right now was the time to move him given his contract and given his season. There is no doubt in my mind.
I'm not sure everyone realizes the kind of player we got back for him. Make no mistake about it Fedor Tyutin is the return on this deal. Tyutin is a 24 year old 6'3" 210lb mobile defensemen.
Features an impressive all-around arsenal. Has an ideal body for the defense position and excellent hockey sense.
Could stand to add more muscle to his 6-2 frame. Needs to work on his play without the puck and adjust to the speed of the pro game.
Top four defenseman.
This guy is signed for 4 years at an average of 2.84 million. He's got 3 pro years under his belt scoring 20, 14 & 25. This dude is only going to get better and better. He instantly improves our backend.
Tyutin fits the mold of the kind of players the Jackets have acquired. Young competitive players in their 20s who are only going to get better and grow with the Nashes, Leclaires, Kleslas, Brassards, Voraceks, Russells, Umbergers, Torres, Filatovs of this team.
Don't think for a second that Howson isn't going to address the hole left by Z. They are burning up the phone lines now looking to address those holes.
I really like this deal as I've liked Tyutin for quite a while. It makes sense as long as we fill the vacant holes on offense because as much as I won't miss Z he did score 60+ points for us last year on a team that couldn't score goals. That production needs addressed.
Of course later on that very same evening Howson nabbed Kristian Huselius to fill that offensive void left by the enigmatic one.
Now with the announcement that the Rangers have walked away from Zherdev making him a unrestricted free agent Howson looks like a genius. Backman is now off the books (thankfully) and Tyutin went on to score a career high 34 points and has become an integral part of the Jackets defense. He's also signed for 3 more seasons at a bargain price.
My point to this entire thing? If Howson hadn't reached out to Zherdev in that 2006-2007 offseason and Hitch hadn't been able to motivate and help rebuild Zherdev's game perhaps Fedor Tyutin is never a Jacket? Perhaps it's the Jackets walking away from this award with nothing in return?
I can get used to this competent leadership thing.