On Wednesday, the New Jersey Devils reacquired forward Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 7th-round pick in 2013 and a 4th-round pick in 2014.
General Manager Lou Lamoriello announced the trade Wednesday night along with an update on Dainius Zubrus. The forward will undergo exploratory surgery on his wrist. He could miss anywhere from two to eight weeks. The injury played a role in Ponikarovsky’s return.
“I think it was a major factor in re-acquiring him because he fit in so well,” Lamoriello said. “He played our style, he played in all situations. We really would have re-signed him, except that, at that time, we were waiting to see what we were going to be doing with another player. It held (it) up and I don’t think he could wait any longer, which I respected. But he was a player that played extremely well for us throughout the playoffs and just fit into the culture that we have here in New Jersey.”
That player Lamoriello is referring to is probably Zach Parise. While they tried to obtain their former captain, Ponikarovsky signed with the Jets as a free agent.
He is expected to be in the line-up for Friday’s game against the Flyers. Ponikarovsky was happy when he heard the news about the trade.
“I was surprised and excited at the same time,” Ponikarovsky said from Winnipeg on a conference call with reporters. “I know the team, I know the way they play and I think a lot of things we’ve done in the past, it suits me. It’s one of those things; I can’t control the trade and other things, the only thing I can do is come out and play the way I played before.”
The European native was acquired last season in a trade with Carolina on January 20th, 2012 for defenseman Joe Sova and a 4th round choice (Jaccob Slavin) in 2012. He played in 33 games with New Jersey and tallied seven goals and 11 assists. Ponikarovsky scored the game winning goal versus the Flyers in Game 3 of the conference semifinals, and assisted on Adam Henrique’s overtime goals that eliminated the Panthers and Rangers during the 2012 playoff run.
“Obviously there’s a few (good memories),” Ponikarovsky said. “We went to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s the pretty important one in my mind. The way we played and everybody contributed, and everybody sacrificed a lot of things for it. It just felt great. It’s still fresh in my mind because it’s a short season and it just started. I still remember that. It’s probably going to stay with me for the rest of my life, but I’m just saying that right now it’s just one of those things that comes up in my mind, for sure.”
It’s understandable why the Devils wanted to keep the 6’4, 225-lb winger over the off-season. Ponikarovsky’s versatility was welcomed by Head Coach Peter DeBoer. Like Zubrus, he could be used in most situations, including a number of line combinations.
“He’s an all-situation player and was used last year killing penalties, power plays, as well as 5-on-5. He knows the system. He came here in the middle of the year and played extremely well,” said the Devils general manager.
Lamoriello said a player will be assigned to Albany to make room for the winger once the transaction is made official. It may be that Stefan Matteau could be that player sent down, though he would rejoin his junior team in the QMJHL. With the acquisition, it’s unsure if Mattieu Darche remains in the teams interests going forward.
Something to keep in mind for the off-season; this is a contract year for Zubrus. He will become a free agent in the summer. Ponikarovsky is also on a one year deal. New Jersey has cap space, but with multiple UFA’s to re-sign (or pursue), the club might have to pick and choose which power forward to retain.
About the Author: Sports Reporter by day, puck stopper between the pipes at night. I was the Locker Room Reporter for the Islanders for WRHU-FM. Currently, I cover the New Jersey Devils on HockeyIndependent.com and Metro Area Hockey on BrooklynFans.com Follow me on Twitter @John_A_Iadevaia