2010 NHL free agency: Kings sign Alexei Ponikarovsky

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alexeiponikarovsky.jpgWhile this off-season has been mostly a let down for the Los Angeles Kings coming up short in efforts to land Dan Hamhuis, Paul Martin and most famously Ilya Kovalchuk, they’ve finally landed a scoring forward to help out. The Kings announced today that they’ve signed Ukrainian power forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal are not immediately known. We’ll update this post later on when they become available.

(Update: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports it’s a $3 million deal with a $200,000 signing bonus.)

Ponikarovsky is a big boy a 6’4″ 229 pounds as well as a slick skater. Unfortunately for Penguins fans, when Ponikarovsky was acquired by them last season, he didn’t make much use of his body offensively and soured his free agent value scoring just two goals and nine points with the Penguins in 16 games. In the playoffs he wasn’t much better scoring just one goal and earning five points.

In his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ponikarovsky was a steady 20-goal guy and able to notch anywhere between 30-40 assists per season. He’ll be counted on to be the Kings’ second line winger behind Ryan Smyth and while he’ll essentially be the ideal replacement for losing Alex Frolov, his goal scoring ability and touch is a bit behind what Frolov could do, although Ponikarovsky’s ability to set players up is much better. The Kings will be counting heavily upon Ponikarovsky to help keep scoring levels up for the blossoming team but one of his underrated qualities is his ability to defend better, something Alexander Frolov struggled mightily with and something that seemed to frustrate Kings coach Terry Murray.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.

Leafs claim Corrado from Canucks, waive Panik

Frank Corrado
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have claimed one of the more intriguing players placed on waivers — former Vancouver defenseman Frank Corrado.

Corrado, 22, was waived by the Canucks on Monday. The former OHL standout had appeared in 28 career games for Vancouver — including 10 last year — but was squeezed out of an NHL spot following the emergence of Ben Hutton, who surprised many onlookers by making the 23-man roster.

Canucks GM Jim Benning will receive criticism for losing an asset like Corrado for nothing. Several Vancouver pundits warned of exposing a young, promising d-man to waivers and those warnings ultimately proved accurate.

With Toronto, Corrado could push for playing time as the club indicated on Monday veteran d-man Sephane Robidas wouldn’t be with the team to start the year. That would leave the the Leafs with seven healthy blueliners: Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Roman Polak, Morgan Rielly, Matt Hunwick, Martin Marincin and Scott Harrington, who can go to the minors without having to clear waivers.

Petter Granberg, another defenseman, is currently on IR.

In a corresponding move to the Corrado claim, the Leafs put forward Richard Panik on waivers. Panik, who Toronto plucked off waivers from Tampa Bay last year, appeared in 76 games for the Leafs, scoring 11 goals and 17 points.