Columbus Blue Jackets and Nikolai Zherdev finally agree to new deal

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The 21-year-old restricted free agent agreed to a US$7.5-million, three-year deal with the NHL club Thursday when all signs pointed to the Ukrainian winger playing in Russia this season.

"It was a challenge because we were so far apart but it's great to get it done, he's a young player that you want to have here," Jackets GM Doug MacLean told The Canadian Press. "Negotiations are negotiations, sometimes you just don't agree on the dollars but it's good that we were able to work through it."

He will earn $1.75 million this season, $2.5 million in 2007-08 and $3.25 million in 2008-09.

Zherdev, who made $942,400 last season, was second in goals (27) and points (54) with the Jackets last year, his second in the NHL.

The two sides had been stuck for weeks on their last offers, MacLean at $6.9 million and the Zherdev camp at $8.5 million. In the meantime, Zherdev was signed and playing with Russian club Khimik Voskresenk.

The Russian deal included an out clause if Zherdev could agree to terms with Columbus before Oct. 5, the day before the Jackets' regular-season opener.

"I am very happy to remain a Blue Jacket and want to thank the organization for their commitment and support," Zherdev said in a statement. "I am excited about our team and look forward to joining my teammates in Columbus as soon as possible."

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