One of my favorite moves that Jim Rutherford made last off-season was the signing of Alexei Ponikarovsky to a one-year deal at a very low cost of $1.50 mil. I liked this move because while Ponikarovsky was coming off a bad season with the Los Angeles Kings (5 goals, 15 points in 61 games), he was previously an 18-21 goal scorer for a good part of his career and had top-six potential. The other thing I liked about Poni was his ability to drive possession at a pretty high rate. He has been extremely well at doing this over the last few seasons, so even if he wasn't scoring, he would at least be contributing in other areas. That last sentence sums up his year with the Hurricanes perfectly.
The Poni Express' career as a Hurricane lasted 49 games before he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Joe Sova and a 4th round pick, but I think he played a lot better than his 7-7-14 scoring line indicates. He is a player who I thought "did everything but score" because he was used in so many roles this year and performed well in most of them. The only problem was that he just couldn't seem to hit the back of the net no matter how many shots he got off. Whether you want to blame that on a 7.1% shooting percentage or a "lack of finishing ability" is up to you.
Either way, Ponikarovsky has proven himself to be a useful piece but he is more suited for a third-line role now, which is something that the Hurricanes did not need this year. Which is why he has performed better on the Devils, a team that was starving for depth forwards and Ponikarovsky gave them exactly what they needed at the time. I have a feeling that he will have a job in the NHL next year.
After the jump, we will take a look at the underlying stats from Poni's tenure with the Hurricanes and see in which ways he was useful here, and how he was not.