The New Jersey Devils had some action tonight without playing a game. The Devils acquired Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Carolina Hurricanes this evening. As confirmed by NHL.com, the Devils traded a 2012 fourth round pick and defenseman Joe Sova to get the big winger from the Canes.
|2011-12 - Alexei Ponikarovsky||49||7||8||15||-12||26||4||0||0||98||7.1||14:52|
In short, I think the Devils made a really good deal here. It's a rental, but an excellent one given what kind of player they acquired and how little it cost them.
Ponikarovsky is a left winger who has broken into the league first as a Maple Leaf and then bouncing around to Pittsburgh, LA, and Carolina since 2010. Ponikarovsky really struggled as a King, putting up only 5 goals and 10 assists in 61 games. He's enjoying a rebound season where he's already matched those point totals in 49 games. According to his profile at NHL.com, he's got a big 6'4", 224 pound frame. He's not going to score a lot, but he can definitely chip in on offense. Short of a big slump as a Devil, he'll likely get at least 10 goals and 20 points this season. Outside of David Clarkson (and technically Travis Zajac), I'm not sure who else among the third and fourth liners on New Jersey can do that. I don't even know who else among that bottom six would get over 100 shots outside of Clarkson. That Ponikarovsky can shoot and produce is a reason that this is a good upgrade.
In taking a quick glance at some advanced statistics, Ponikarovsky has been a very good third-line left winger when it comes to possession. Just look at his numbers at Behind the Net from this season and the last four. His on-ice Corsi is just great; he has pushed and continues to push the play forward. Even when he was struggling as a King, he was a positive on-ice Corsi player at even strength. The ice time and quality of competition are in line with someone on a third line and that's perfectly fine. He didn't have to play the toughs or eat big minutes and he won't have to in New Jersey. DeBoer can maintain his ice time and usage and he would still provide a benefit going forward.
The Devils' bottom six could definitely use any kind of benefit at this point. Let's be frank, the third and fourth lines haven't been all that useful on most nights. The third line left wing position has been in flux since Mattias Tedenby clearly didn't justify his position there. Even in the Devils' game against Boston, DeBoer tried out center Steve Zalewski there to see how he would do. Now, the Devils don't have to search for a fill-in forward on that line. They can now slot in a veteran who has experience and success in that position. The team now has some more depth at wing in terms of quality and quantity, which they really didn't have a lot of to begin with. This move should also free up Tedenby in the future. The Devils can now send him down to Albany to get his game back in order as Ponikarovsky holds down the third line winger spot. The Devils made this trade to answer a need and they've got a guy who can do meet that need.
That in of itself is good; but what makes this a deal an excellent rental in my eyes is that very little risk was taken on for a small cost. A fourth round pick isn't worth much in general; even after this deal, they still have Toronto's fourth rounder so they don't lose much in that regard. Joe Sova was signed out of college and while he's still developing, he wasn't really pushing his way up the team's deep depth among defensemen. I'm not sure what Carolina's system looks like, but if they don't have a load of defenders, then Sova will probably have a better shot at moving up there. Maybe he becomes a player, maybe not. Last and not least, Ponikarovsky is on a one year, $1.5 million contract according to CapGeek. If he doesn't mesh well with the team or isn't all that effective, then the Devils can let him go free. The Devils won't be paying him so much more money for the rest of this season, so he's not adding much to the books. If he does well, it probably will not take much to retain his services.
We may see those services as soon as tomorrow. Hopefully, he can get to Newark for tomorrow's game. He did play in Carolina's 3-0 win over Washington (12:04, 1 SOG), so he'd be really thrown into the Philly game with fatigue and suddenly playing on a new team against a rival right away. Lou isn't fazed by these possibilities. In fact, he expects that he'll play if he can get to Newark in time per Gulitti's post on the trade.
In summary, Tom Gulitti's headline about the trade says it all: the Devils got Ponikarovsky for third line depth. Ponikarovsky has been quite good as a third liner and the Devils gave up very little to get him. If he can mesh well with David Clarkson, then the team's third line can be far more formidable. He can win his match-ups and help drive offense on the third line, which is what I expect to some degree. If not, then he's at least a big body who can play hockey along with throwing checks. I really do like this trade.
What is your opinion about the deal? What do you expect out of Alexei Ponikarovsky? Do you think Lou will make more deals, and if so, what do you think he'll do? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Ponikarovsky in the comments. I'd like to thank Matt V for getting up a FanShot of the news as it happened; and I thank you for reading. (Quick Update: I added a poll for easy reaction.)