Skip to main content

Ponikarovsky looking forward to new opportunity

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
Alexei Ponikarovsky figured he was a goner, but the newest member of the Pittsburgh Penguins told TSN's James Duthie on Wednesday morning that it's still a bit shocking that he won't be calling himself a Toronto Maple Leaf anymore.

"I knew it was coming, but still, even if you're ready you have to mentally step over that board and realize you are no longer a Maple Leaf," said Ponikarovsky, who spent nine seasons with the Leafs. "You have to reset your mind and go to the next club and help them battle for the playoffs and Stanley Cup."

Ponikarovsky woke up Wednesday morning with that chance, something he couldn't say Tuesday. The Leafs are in a full rebuild while the Penguins are going for the big prize yet again.

Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero has picked up top-six forwards at each of the last two trade deadlines, and his team answered by going to the Cup Final both years. Shero nabbed Marian Hossa from Atlanta in 2008 and last season got Bill Guerin from the Islanders on deadline day after acquiring Chris Kunitz from Anaheim a few days earlier.

"I knew it was coming, but still, even if you're ready you have to mentally step over that board and realize you are no longer a Maple Leaf. You have to reset your mind and go to the next club and help them battle for the playoffs and Stanley Cup." -- Alexei Ponikarovsky on his trade to Penguins

All three played on Sidney Crosby's line, and Ponikarovsky could as well. If not, he might find his way onto Evgeni Malkin's line.

There are worse places to be.

"It's a great club, a great organization," Ponikarovsky said of the Penguins. "They have been in the Cup Final for two years in a row and last year they won it. I think it's a good opportunity for me to establish myself, as well as to play with players like Crosby, Malkin and the other guys there. They know how to play and what it takes to win the Cup."

Ponikarovsky, though, wasn't sure if he would be able make his Penguins debut Thursday in New York. He said they were in the process of working out his immigration papers. He was born in Kiev, Ukraine, but he gained his Canadian citizenship June 7, 2007.

"Still in Toronto right now and they're going to get in touch with me any time now and we'll see what is going to happen next," Ponikarovsky said. "I don't know anything yet."

Ponikarovsky had 19 goals and 22 assists in 61 games for the Leafs this season. He has reached 20 goals three times in his career, with a career-high of 23 in 2008-09. You get the feeling that if he does play with Crosby, he'll set a new career-high this season.

In exchange for Ponikarovsky, the Leafs got back 21-year-old forward Luca Caputi and veteran defenseman Martin Skoula, who could become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

It's unlikely Skoula remains a Leaf beyond this season, but Caputi was acquired for the future.

He is a Toronto native who used to sleep next to a painting of Doug Gilmour, but more importantly he had 23 goals and 24 assists in 54 games this season with the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Caputi told TSN that he spoke to Leafs GM Brian Burke late Tuesday and was told he should expect to be in the Leafs' lineup Thursday in Boston.

"Pretty speechless," Caputi told Duthie. "The heart rate has been up for a couple of hours. I really want to make this work. I am going to do anything in my power to give a boost where I can."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.


View More