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Numbers Game: Ponikarovsky to the Kings

Scott Cullen
7/27/2010 4:33:28 PM
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On the same day that the Kings lost free agent winger Alexander Frolov to the New York Rangers, Los Angeles signed a veteran winger with more size to fill  that spot on the depth chart.

Numbers Game looks at the Alexei Ponikarovsky deal.

The Kings Get: LW Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Ponikarovsky, 30, is one season removed from a career-best 23 goals and 61 points with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008-2009, but struggled after being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline in 2009-2010, scoring two goals and nine points in 16 games before managing five points in 11 playoff games.  Worse, he was a healthy scratch in the postseason.

Nevertheless, Ponikarovsky ended last season with 21 goals and 50 points, the fourth time in the last five years that he's topped 20 goals and the second 50-point season of his career.

While Ponikarovsky finished last season with a minus-1 rating, thanks to his minus-6 in Pittsburgh, he had been a plus-51 over the previous five seasons with the Maple Leafs. 

In Los Angeles, a reliable two-way winger like Ponikarovsky would seem like a natural fit alongside Michal Handzus; a pair of towering forwards who work the corners and play both ends of the rink.  Depending on the health of other Kings wingers (looking at you, Justin Williams), Ponikarovsky could be needed higher on the depth chart.

Signed for one year, Ponikarovsky isn't as highly skilled as Frolov, the man he's effectively replacing in the Kings' lineup, but they are decidedly different players.  While I projected Frolov to be a 60-point scorer with the Rangers, I have Ponikarovsky down for 21 goals and 46 points with the Kings next season.

Ponikarovsky, at least when he's playing well, brings a more physical game and his defensive responsibility figures to be a better fit if he indeed ends up skating in a third-line role in Los Angeles.

The Kings have played a very patient game this summer and secured the services of Ponikarovsky for $3.2-million; a raise on the $2.5-million, he made last season, but the short term of the deal minimizes the level of risk involved for the Kings and makes it worth paying a bit of a premium.

Given how much Ponikarovsky struggled after joining the Penguins, there seemed little likelihood of his re-signing there this summer.  A fresh start for Ponikarovsky will give him a chance to re-establish his value before potentially hitting the free agent market again next season.

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




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