Alexei Ponikarovsky is back in black (and red). The Devils re-acquired the left wing in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a fourth- and a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft. You may remember the Devils let Ponikarovsky walk in the offseason after he put up seven goals and 20 points in 33 regular-season games last season. He also had a goal and eight assists during the Devils’ run to the Stanley Cup final.
So why bring Ponikarovsky back? You mean besides the gaping hole at left wing on the first and fourth lines? Kidding.
Lamoriello said they wanted to re-sign Ponikarovsky last summer, but were waiting on another player, and Poni signed with WPG.—
Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) February 14, 2013
And then there’s this…
Speaking with DeBoer before the season I mentioned losses of Parise and Sykora, he said not to forget Ponikarovsky. The coach fond of him—
Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 14, 2013
The Devils said they will send a player down to the AHL to make room for Ponikarovsky, who plans to fly to New Jersey tomorrow and be available to play Friday.
Corey GriffinThe Devils also announced Dainius Zubrus will need surgery and be sidelined for two to eight weeks, but we’ll get into that in another post. As for this move, it seems pretty obvious the “player” the Devils were waiting on last summer was Zach Parise and Ponikarovsky chose to sign a one-year, $1.8 million deal with Winnipeg instead of waiting for New Jersey. He should help provide solid depth up front, especially with Zubrus out until possibly late April. The Devils have been trying to find someone, anyone to fit in at left wing on the top line alonside Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk and Ponikarovsky did show a nice scoring touch during last season’s limited run. I’d expect him to get at least get a game to audition there, possibly as early as Friday night against Philly.
It also depends on who the Devils send down. It would in no way shock me if it’s Stefan Matteau, who has played better since his contract situation was “resolved,” but remains far from a top-line player. He was mostly playing there because Pete DeBoer was reluctant to break up the incredibly efficient second and third lines for more than a shift or two. The other options are Andrei Loktionov (which would surprise me) and Bobby Butler. I can’t seem them sending Loktionov back to Albany after one optional practice when Lou specifically said the coaches wanted to take a couple days to see what they had. As for Butler, he’s played pretty well since he was called up and seems like a good fit on the fourth line. Plus, Butler is a natural right wing, so he’ll likely stick unless they want to play Jacob Josefson or Matteau on the right side on that fourth line.
Regardless, a lot of moving parts right now in New Jersey.