The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenceman Martin Skoula and forward Luca Caputi. The Leafs have since unloaded Skoula to the New Jersey Devils for a fifth-round pick in 2010.
With anticipation that the trade might take place, Ponikarovsky was kept out of Tuesday's line-up as a healthy scratch for Toronto's home game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I didn't think this was a deal we'd be able to do. If you'd have told me we could do it a few days ago, I'd have said no way," Penguins general manager Ray Shero told the Canadian Press. "This gives us a chance to be a good team again. I was happy with our team. We didn't have to take anything off our team."
Ponikarovsky will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is earning $2.5 million this year. The 29-year old native of Kiev, Ukraine, has 19 goals and 22 assists in 61 games this season and is on pace to eclipse his career-high of 23 goals set in 2008-09.
Drafted by the Maple Leafs in the 4th round (87th overall) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Ponikarovsky had 114 goals, 143 assists and a plus-56 rating in 477 games with the blue and white.
"He's a good, hardworking winger who drives to the net hard, he has good size, he's a good player," said Pittsburgh forward Ruslan Fedotenko. "I feel like he's a good addition for us."
Skoula, 30, has three goals and five assists in 33 games for the Penguins this season. The veteran blueliner will be joining his fifth NHL club after being drafted in the first round (17th overall) by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1998 draft. He also skated for Anaheim, Dallas, and Minnesota before signing a one-year contract with the Penguins as an unrestricted free agent last summer.
Skoula is again eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He is earning $575,000 this season.
Caputi, 21, is a Toronto native and was drafted by the Penguins in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He has one goal and one assist in four games with Pittsburgh this season. The 6'2", 184 pound left winger has 23 goals and 24 assists in 54 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.
"Luca was the guy they wanted," Shero told the Canadian Press. "We had a long discussion internally. That was not a guy we wanted to trade or looked to trade. But at the end of the day Poni was that guy (that we wanted)."