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Numbers Game: Penguins Bring in Ponikarovsky

Scott Cullen
3/2/2010 10:54:27 PM
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Looking for a top-six forward, the Pittsburgh Penguins made a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs for a proven 20-goal scorer.

Numbers Game looks at the Alexei Ponikarovsky deal.

The Penguins Get: LW Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Ponikarovsky, 30, may have limited offensive upside, but he's a strapping 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds who is a strong skater who has scored 102 goals over the last five seasons.  

Just as importantly, Ponikarovsky plays both ends of the rink and has been a plus-player in every season except for his first stint in the NHL in 2000-2001 when he was minus-1 in 22 games.  It's not a stretch to suggest that he's been Toronto's best two-way forward this season.

Joining the Penguins ought to provide better offensive opportunity for Ponikarovsky, who figures to slide in alongside Evgeni Malkin and Ponikarovsky should similarly help Malkin, who has been saddled with underachieving Ruslan Fedotenko on his wing for much of this season.

In the final year of his contract, Ponikarovsky's cap hit for this season is $2,105,000.

The Maple Leafs Get: LW Luca Caputi and D Martin Skoula.

21-year-old Luca Caputi is a lanky winger with scoring potential.  In his second pro season, Caputi has 23 goals, 47 points and a minus-2 rating in 54 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League.  He's also put up a couple of goals and three points in nine career NHL games.

The benefit from the Leafs' perspective is that, intead of waiting an extra few years for a draft pick to develop, Caputi should be ready to contribute at the NHL level sooner.

Going to a Maple Leafs team that has a depleted forward corps, Caputi should get a good look -- on a scoring line -- with the Maple Leafs for the rest of the season.  Given the early returns on his pro career, Caputi could certainly develop into a 20-goal scorer, effectively replacing Ponikarovsky in that regard.

Caputi is under contract through next season, at which point he will be a restricted free agent.

The Maple Leafs will also take on Martin Skoula, the 30-year-old who has been the Penguins' seventh defenceman this season.  

Skoula has eight points and is minus-4 in 33 games, but the Maple Leafs are taking on his $575,000 salary so that the Penguins have room to fit Ponikarovsky under the salary cap.  

Thus, anything that Skoula provides on the ice isn't particularly consequential, to the point that the Leafs would probably be fine if another team would take Skoula off their hands before the deadline.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.


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