Having spent time in Toronto, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Carolina the Poni Express was routed to New Jersey Friday night as the Hurricanes dealt Alexei Ponikarovsky to the Devils for fourth-round draft pick and an AHLer. The 31-year-old Kiev native has become something of a journeyman going to his fourth team since 2010.
Acquired to fill in on the third line for the Devils, the winger has not had much success finding the net since being traded from Toronto totaling just 14 goals with 3 different teams. While he spent most of last season injured he was brought to Carolina to hopefully regain the spark from his Toronto days. 15 points in 49 games was not good enough for the Canes who off-loaded him to the Devils.
New Jersey receives a formidable veteran who in 603 NHL games has scored 128 goals while dishing out 169 assists. The Devils have lacked consistent scoring on their 3rd line and haven’t really sacrificed much to gamble on the streaky winger. Ponikarovsky has had 3 20+ goal seasons in the past and he could still try to reach that plateau by seasons end.
He could impress management enough to consider offering him a contract as he becomes a free-agent at the end of the year. For a guy who has yet to find a steady home in the NHL it’s now or never as the allure of playing back home will inevitability pop up as it does for most players born in the Soviet Union.
Perhaps the presence of Russian-speaking players in Ilya Kovalchuk, Anton Volchenkov, and Dainius Zubrus will help Ponikarovsky feel more comfortable in the locker room and turn his game around.