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Making the case: Sergei Zubov

Yahoo! Sports’ Greg Wyshynski wrote a blog this past week about how seasoned veteran, Stanley Cup winner, Gold Medal winner, Norris Trophy nominated and 3-time All-Star (but oft-injured) Sergei Zubov is moving on from the Dallas Stars.

Dallas, the team Zubov has been with for the bulk of his career – and certainly the team he made a name for himself with – has been told that they’ll be given the opportunity to match any offer (according to Wyshynski’s blog) but it looks like the marriage between the Stars and Zubov has come to an end.

But hey… with the way marriages are going in this country, 13 years ain’t bad. But that’s another argument for another day.

Also last week, on 104.5 The Zone, Nashville Predators Director of Hockey Operations Michael Santos said (paraphrased) “we’re not necessarily looking for someone who can play every game, but rather for experience and to be a sort of mentor.”

When he said it, Cell Block 303 public enemy #1 Chris Chelios came to mind. He’s also available and is looking to play one more season. But now with Zubov basically announcing he’s moving on from the Stars, it’s very easy to see how he would fit the mold of what Santos said the Preds are looking for: a Stanley Cup champion, who’s a seasoned vet, who’s been an alternate captain and thus has the leadership qualities to be a mentor for a year.

What are the pro’s to bringing Zubov into the fold? For starters – and it’s one of the biggest cliche’s in sports – you can’t coach experience. Well Zubov certainly has that. He’s played in a wealth of clutch situations in an even bigger wealth of pressure games in his 16 year career. In those 16 seasons, he’s only missed the playoffs three times (the ’92 Rangers and the ’02 and ’09 Stars teams). Since leaving New York after the 1994-95 season he’s only posted a minus rating twice and is +152 in his career. He’s the all-time leading scorer among Russian defenseman in the NHL with 771 points. And, to top it all off, he’s a winner. Two Stanley Cups (’94 and ’99) and a gold medal with CIS in the 1992 Olympic games.

Take a look at the most recent Predators draft picks. 2007 1st round pick Jonathon Blum: when selected, he’d already won the WHL Championship and played in two Memorial Cups, winning one. 2008 1st round pick Colin Wilson went on to lead Boston University to the 2009 NCAA National Championship. Even the most recent 1st round pick Ryan Ellis is a Memorial Cup champion, a goal medal winner at the World Juniors, a gold medal winner at the IIHF Under 18’s and a gold medal winner at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The kid knows how to win.

What does this have to do with bringing in Zubov? He’s also a winner. He knows how to win the big game in clutch situations and that appears to be a theme that David Poile and the front office is trying to infuse into the lineup, and into the organization as a whole.

So the winning attitude is taken care of. Let’s look at the roster and see if Zubov fits.

Shea Weber is the undisputed #1 defenseman with his partner-in-crime Ryan Suter being the #2. Dan Hamhuis is the #3 and, due to the departure of shot block-extraordinaire Greg Zanon, the untested Kevin Klein is the #4. Who’s going to round out the final two spots? Blum? Codey Franson? Alexander Sulzer? Teemu Laakso? There are just too many question marks at the defensive position, let alone on the same defensive line. Zubov would come in here and immediately be the #4 along side Hamhuis, allowing Klein to be the “experienced one” on the 3rd pairing, which, in turn, allows one of the rookies to earn his stripes.

So we’ve taken care of the winning-attitude argument and the roster depth argument. Now let’s talk about money. What would it cost to bring him in and is it realistic?

Zubov earned a whopping $5.35 million last season… with 10 games to show for it. The season before that, on the same pay scale, he only played in 46 games. He recently had hip surgery, which is what kept him out of the bulk of the 2008-09 season. He’ll be 39 years old by the time training camp opens so he has to know that his value will be considerably lower based on his age alone, not to mention the past two years of injury. If the Predators could offer Zubov $2 million for one year, it might be worth the gamble to bring him into to fold. He could mentor the young defensive corps here, he would help instill the winning attitude the front office is trying to implement and, once in the playoffs, he could lead by example on the ice. He’s also a powerplay specialist so just think for a minute: Weber and Suter on the first PP line and Zubov and Hamhuis on the 2nd. If Zubov can remain healthy (even half the season), he could provide a huge boost to the special teams play.

Now, of course the money he’ll command for his services is a big deal and, quite frankly, the Preds might not even be on the radar considering very few writers will deem them a playoff team. We here in Nashville know that with our goaltending, our solid young defense and the resigning of Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward, this team can, and will, contend for a playoff spot this upcoming season. Whether the writers around North America know that or not is irrelevant and, quite frankly, we don’t care. But the bottom line is, the Preds need one more veteran piece to the puzzle and that veteran piece must be on the blueline.

Zubov just might be that piece.


This is the first in a series that will be doing on the available UFA’s.


UPDATE: On July 30, 2009, Zubov signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.