There are few players who've gone through a more-complex transaction wringer than Alexei Ponikarovsky the last few years, as he's bounced around from the Toronto Maple Leafs, to the Pittsburgh Penguins, to the Los Angeles Kings, to the Carolina Hurricanes, to the New Jersey Devils, and now finally to the Winnipeg Jets, all in about three years. Before he added about fifty stickers to his luggage, he was a respected, big-bodied goal scorer with three 20+ goal seasons on his resume and nearly two more. Now 32 years old, the hype ship has pretty much sailed, but I'm of the belief that there's still value left in the 6'4", 220 pounder, although it kind of sucks that it could come at the expense of guys like Patrice Cormier and Carl Klingberg. More discussion on that in a bit.
|Season||Tm||GP||5v5 TOI||5v4||4v5||5v5 QoC||5v5 CRel||Z%||5v5 G/60||A/60||PTS/60|
The first five metric columns are ranks among his team's forwards who played 20+ games; in seasons where he played most of his games with one of the teams, I ranked him among that team. In 2011-12, he split his season pretty evenly, so I provided the ranks on either team.
Those 5v5 scoring numbers sufficed to regularly place him in the top 50-60 forwards at even-strength while he was in Toronto, in other words good enough to be an average 1st liner or above-average 2nd liner. Despite this, he's never been treated like a top-line player, whether it was due to depth chart or performance issues I'm not sure.
The most intriguing thing to me is that, outside of what looks like a lost year in Los Angeles (where the Kings did not seem committed to giving him quality playing time), he has been a remarkably effective player at 5v5, turning in team-high Corsi Rel's all over the place.
So, what's the damage, where does he fit, and was it worth it?
The damage is $1.8 million for next year, which I think is fair for his career to this point and his underlying numbers. In terms of where he fits, things get a bit tricky; he's almost exclusively a left winger, so that immediately keeps him out of the top two lines. As suggested by the recent Fan Shot, he and Nik Antropov are pretty good buddies, so logically speaking you can expect them to play the third line together. With Tanner Glass sent packing to Pittsburgh, this suggests that one of our young guys, either Patrice Cormier or Carl Klingberg (or even Ivan Telegin later in the season) could slot into that 4th line LW. My hunch is that Jim Slater will get a bump to the 3rd line, with Antro on the right wing, which could make for a pretty nifty group at even-strength. In other words, this is what I'm envisioning:
- Andrew Ladd --- Bryan Little --- Blake Wheeler
- Evander Kane --- ??? --- Alexander Burmistrov
- Alexei Ponikarovsky --- Jim Slater --- Nik Antropov
- Carl Klingberg --- Patrice Cormier --- Chris Thorburn
- Ladd --- Little --- Wheeler
- Kane --- Antro --- Burmi
- Poni --- Slater --- Thorburn (cringe)
- Klingberg --- Cormier --- Spencer Machacek