The fact Alexander Frolov and Alexei Ponikarovsky signed one-year contracts worth virtually equal amounts offers a lot of insight into what their respective employers value.
Frolov is the higher-end player, twice having gone over 30 goals in his career. Obviously the New York Rangers are hoping they’ve hooked him just in time to see a rebound from last season’s weak 19-goal showing, the lowest total Frolov has posted since scoring 14 times as an NHL rookie in 2002-03.
There have been some indications the Kings made overtures to return Frolov to their fleet for next season, but that was only after their preferred option, Ilya Kovalchuk, signed what may or may not be a valid NHL contract with the New Jersey Devils.
Maybe L.A. did kick the tires on retaining Frolov, but has anyone really had the sense Kings management made him a top priority after a number of trade-rumor riddled seasons?
Enter the Blueshirts, who are happy to enter high-risk, high-reward scenarios. No team that isn’t would have committed $7.5 million per season through 2013-14 to Marian Gaborik, a player who sends writers scrambling to find a much stronger word than prone when describing his relationship with injuries.
Frolov is a lighter version of another he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not player the Rangers used to employ, Alex Kovalev. The latter, in his prime, possessed more game-changing ability than Frolov, but they’re still cut from the same maddening cloth.
Another player who fits that mold? Nikolai Zherdev, whom the Rangers employed for one season in 2008-09 before cutting ties with him last summer after he was awarded a one-year, $3.9-million deal in an arbitration hearing.
The more you examine past precedent, the more it becomes clear Frolov and Broadway were meant for each other – the only question is for how long.
According to capgeek.com, Ponikarovsky’s one-year pact with the Kings calls for him to make $3.2 million, $200,000 more than Frolov is slated to rake in with the Rangers. That’s not because anybody thinks ‘Pony’ is a more premier player; it’s because, all things being equal, you can count on him netting 20 to 25 goals, while never being aligned with adjectives like “disgruntled,” as Frolov seemingly always was during his California stay.
The Kings are a young team looking to build on earning a post-season berth last year and while nobody in their right mind would tell you Ponikarovsky is going to get them over the championship hump, he’s not going to inject any unnecessary anxiety into a development process that is, by nature, volatile enough to endure.
L.A. gave up a little on skill in the name of stability. The Rangers, as usual, simply aren’t in a position to have that luxury.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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