Ponikarovsky Signs With Los Angeles Kings

MONTREAL- MAY 6: Alexei Ponikarovsky #23 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on May 6, 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Penguins 3-2 tying the series 2-2. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The Kings have signed forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to fill the shoes left by the departed Alexander Frolov. Was it a good move? That’s debatable. But the fact remains that the Kings locked up Ponikarovsky for 1-year at $3 million. As a result it is the ultimate in low-risk, since the worst case scenario they’re stuck with an under-performing player they can dump at the end of the year. It wouldn’t be the first time the Kings dealt with and under-achiever, but it MAY be the first time they only had to deal with him for one year…

Before we take a more detailed look at Ponikarovsky and his play since the lockout, it’s worth mentioning that the one-year contract makes it a very interesting play from Lombardi. Clearly he is not blowing smoke when he points out that the Kings will likely be big players in free agency as soon as next season, and he’s not even remotely tying his hands when it comes to Simmonds, Doughty, Johnson and anyone else he needs to sign. In that respect I think it’s a good move. If Pony turns out to be a talented addition to the team it’ll be easy enough to sign him again next season, even if it does cost a bit more.

So how does Pony look? Well since 2005, he’s played just under 500 games (493). It’s a reasonable total, and with only one exception hasn’t missed more than a dozen games in a season (and even then, only once). Compared to Frolov (who he is replacing), who has played 536 games in the same span, he’s a similarly durable player, and one that should be counted on to make the line-up at the very least day in and day out. Offensively he’s nowhere close. Frolov has topped 30 goals twice in 5 years, Pony has topped… 22 goals once. Over the last five years, Frolov – 168 goals, 213 assists. Pony – 116 goals, 150 assists. That’s a whopping 115 points in a similar gamespan. Frolov averaged .71 ppg, and Pony? .54 ppg. Over an 82 game season, that comes out to almost a 14 point difference. It’s a significant downgrade offensively.

While you might be inclined to point out that Pony has played for some dreadful Maple Leafs teams since the lockout, there are two important facts to notice. First, the Kings in the last five years have been… less than brilliant. In fact, the Maple Leafs have amassed 419 standings points since the lockout, compared to the Kings’ 408. So that argument is… shot. Second, when poor Pony got traded to the Penguins at the deadline this season (a clearly talented offensive team), his numbers actually DROPPED! He put together 2 goals and 7 points in 16 games. Not a stellar total, and did no better with 1 goal and 4 assists in 11 playoff games. I’ll admit it’s a small sample, but it’s not exactly mind-blowing numbers.

According to Rich Hammond, Lombardi and Murray seem to believe that Pony will slot into the 3rd line with Handzus and Simmonds. Putting the roster temporarily looking like this:

Smyth – Kopitar – Williams

(EMPTY) – Stoll – Brown

Ponikarovsky – Handzus – Simmonds

Parse – Richardson – Clune (?)

Does that mean that he’s going to go out and get another player? Or does this mean he’s looking to allow one of the youngsters in Manchester a real chance of getting some playing time on a top-2 line? Either could be interesting, though I’m leaning towards thinking Lombardi is going to go grab one more guy to round-out his lineup.

So here’s the reader’s perspective. Who should we have fill in on the 2nd line? Interested in seeing somebody we already have in the pipeline? Want the Kings to go after somebody like Patrick Sharp or Scott Hartnell? Who do you like?

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Tags: Alexander Frolov Alexei Ponikarovsky Anze Kopitar Dean Lombardi Drew Doughty Dustin Brown Jack Johnson Los Angeles Kings Michal Handzus Patrick Sharp Scott Hartnell Terry Murray Toronto Maple Leafs Wayne Simmonds

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