ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 8: Alexei Ponikarovsky #27 of the Los Angeles Kings fights for position in front of the net with Toni Lydman #32 and goalie Dan Ellis #8 of the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 8, 2011 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks won 2-1 to clinch a berth in the playoffs. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Carolina Hurricanes surprised a lot people when they went out and signed Alexei Ponikarovsky on the first day of free agency this past July 1. Jim Rutherford said that the original plan was to put the Ukraine native on the first line with Eric Staal and Erik Cole, but of course Cole ruined that strategy when he bolted for more money and moved on to Montreal.
Still, Ponikarovsky will most likely be given every opportunity to develop some chemistry with Staal.
The big winger is mostly known for his physical positioning in front of the net. He had a disappointing, injury filled season last year playing for the Kings, but he claimed that those injuries were behind him when he signed in July. As a matter of fact, last season he produced the lowest (points per game) total of his career.
Once again, we'll ask someone who watched the winger play every game last year for some perspective. Eric Cooney, who blogs for Pro Sports Blogging.com, was nice enough to provide his take for us.
Perhaps being reunited with his old coach from Toronto in Paul Maurice will reignite his scoring touch. The effort and the desire to win are there for the big man, whether he can still find the scoresheet or not is a question left unanswered in L.A.
Can Ponikarovsky return to his Toronto form? Paul Maurice did breath life back into Jussi Jokinen's career after the Finn, at one time, was put on waivers by Tampa Bay. Now Jokinen is one of the more dependable scorers on the Canes.
Before his stint in Los Angeles, Ponikarovsky lit the lamp at least 21 times in four of the previous five seasons. The Canes will be looking for more of that and can certainly use that big body in front of the net during the powerplay.
This could be another "low risk, high reward" signing for Rutherford, who has made his fair share over the years. The winger signed a one year deal worth $1.5 million.
Alexei Ponikarovsky is just one more reason why this will be a very interesting training camp.
(A big thank you to Eric Cooney for his contribution to this article.)