While the Devils were able to retain the services of their goalies, they weren't able to retain Alexei Ponikarovsky's services. Ponikarovsky signed a 1 year $1.8 mil deal with the Winnipeg Jets on July 1st. While he wasn't the biggest factor in the Devils playoff run, Ponikarovsky was a reliable depth player. While the Devils have some more pressing issues right now, such as the re-signing of Zach Parise, finding a replacement for Ponikarovsky is important, as the Devils forward depth was important in their playoff success (and post All-Star break success as well). Here's a look at some potential replacements for Ponikarovsky- via trade, free agency and internally.
Free Agent Options
Of the available free agents, there's only one player who I like- Daniel Winnik. For the 3rd line wing option, he's probably the best free agent option available for that role. Like John mentioned in a previous post mentioning Winnik, he's not going to provide much offense (or more or less, none). However, like Ponikarovsky, he's a good possession player (4.90 on ice corsi/60) and big bodied (6'2 210 lbs). He's also one of the better possession players available- the rest are more or less black holes for possession. Despite his lack of offense, I like Winnik.
Options via Trade
One potential trade option is Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames. Like Winnik, he doesn't provide a lot of offense (46 points in 135 GP, 5.4% career shooting percent) but is a good possession player (the Flames aren't a good possession team). As for his current trade value, i'm not too sure what it is. Maybe Feaster will try and drive up the price because he's young and hasn't gotten a chance to prove himself, or maybe Feaster will try and sell low on Backlund because of his poor boxcar stats.
Another option- Linus Omark of the Oilers. Like Backlund, he's young. He's not very big though (5'10 180 lbs), but he's skilled and is good at driving play forward. He's also probably going to be cheap, considering that the Oilers don't really have any space for him (especially after drafting Nail Yakupov) and he requested a trade from the Oilers organization, meaning it will be much easier prying him from Tambellini than usual.
There's a few potential options internally. Mattias Tedenby does seem like the most obvious candidate due to his NHL experience and high skill level. However, I really don't like his defensive ability (aka non-existant) and it will probably affect his chances in that role. Steven Zalewski could potentially be another Ponikarovsky replacement. He wasn't too bad in his short stint with the team, but I don't know he'll be able to contribute consistently as a 3rd line winger. The last potential option internally could be the recently signed David Wolhberg. He's big (6'1 190), good defensively and he can score at a decent rate (33 points in 41 games w/ Michigan last season). While Wohlberg isn't exactly a top flight prospect like Tedenby or a good AHLer, if he can put together a solid camp he could potentially be a Ponikarovsky replacement, assuming the Devils don't find their replacement for him through other means.
With all that being said, who do you think could be a good replacement for Alexei Ponikarovsky? Do you like any of my suggestions for possible replacements? Or do you have another player in mind? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading