Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Alex Ponikarovsky to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Martin Skoula and Luca Caputi

According to TSN the Toronto Maple Leafs have traded Alex Ponikarovsky to the Pittsburgh Penguins so that he can follow in Hal Gill's footsteps in picking up a Stanley Cup ring. In return, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be receiving forward prospect Luca Caputi and defenceman Martin Skoula. However, if all goes well tomorrow Bob McKenzie does not think that the Maple Leafs will not be holding on to Skoula for long:

Leafs will try to flip Skoula tomorrow if they can. Caputi should play now for Leafs, far sooner than a second round pick would.

This is hopefully just the first move for Brian Burke today. My initial reaction to hearing about the deal on the flight back to Toronto was "who the hell is Luca Caputi?" I had my expectations set a little bit higher for Ponikarovsky in terms of return especially after reading reports that Burke was offered a prospect and a second. I've spent the last while trying to figure out what the Leafs got in Caputi and there's definitely some upside. Darren Dreger thinks he'll get thrown into the deep end right away:

Luca Caputi does have some upside. Some describe him as a power forward, and he maybe he has to work on his skating a little bit. In doing a run about scouts and executives around the National Hockey League, some describe him as a very good prospect, and some say that he has some questions. But he'll get thrown into the mix immediately.

With rumours of many more departures it certainly looks like we will see a lot of Caputi before the end of the season. After the jump a few more reactions:

Damien Cox thinks that Brian Burke is coming to grips with the Leafs being set to finish close to, if not in, last place in the NHL. Frankly, I'm sure he's made peace with that reality a long time ago. The trade does hit one common refrain:

Caputi, at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, has the size on the wing the Leafs are trying to accumulate. While the notion of a second-round pick — the price exacted for both Antropov and Dominic Moore at the deadline last March — appeals to some, the Leafs were clearly looking for something that might help a little sooner.

He touches on the oft-heard refrain that Burke is systematically moving out Europeans when the reality to me seems that he is mostly moving out soft forwards and those that do not fit his style of play. Hockey's Future blurb on Caputi provides some optimism:

Caputi has all of the physical tools to develop into a power forward at the NHL level. At 6-2, 184 pounds, Caputi's game is based upon paying a price physically. He scores a lot of his goals from in front of the net, and is more than willing to muck it up in the corners. One area where Caputi must improve is his skating, where his initial stride is not as quick as it needs to be.

You can read about the prospect ratings here but

Jonathan Willis takes a good look at the trade including some NHL Equivalencies for Luca Caputi. Willis touches on the fact that Ponikarovsky has been a pretty good track record of consistency including this season:

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Alexei Ponikarovsky 61 19 22 41 5 44 4 0 1 0 147 12.9

Hooks Orpik of SBN's Pensburgh had this to say about the deal:

Ponikarovsky is big at 6'4, 220 and he's an experienced and skilled winger.  Giving up Luca Caputi, who's been tearing up the AHL in scoring, is another blow to the organization's depth -- especially if Ponikarovsky walks over the summer.  But there's no doubt Poni adds size and skill to Pittsburgh's wing, which is largely seen as the biggest hurdle the team needs.

Ray Shero has never been afraid to pull the trigger on deadline deals, and this is no different.  It remains to be seen if Ponikarovsky meshes with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, but there's no doubt that when this trade goes through the Penguins will be better on paper than they were before.

There is really good discussion in the comments about the move. There is no doubt that this move improves the Penguins in the short-term. As was noted, they've moved a couple of futures this week and might not be done. Martin Skoula was signed to a one-year deal as a UFA and will now be part of getting a better player for the team. That's a path that the Leafs might be interested in following.

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Martin Skoula 33 3 5 8 -4 6 1 0 0 0 23 13.0

 The Leafs still have a chance to re-sign Poni in the off-season so I am not sure that this is necessarily goodbye for Ponikarovsky. There are certainly a lot of things tying him to Toronto but athletes have short careers and need to get paid when they can. With a solid performance the rest of the way and getting some points in the playoffs Poni could be looking at a healthy pay day.

In Caputi, as Willis notes, the Leaf will be hoping that one day he becomes as good of a player as Ponikarovsky. His development path meshes much better with the core of the Maple Leafs squad so the clear hope is that whatever he contributes to the team is ready to match with the peaks of the rest of the team's important players. For now we'll have 20 games to create our first impressions of Luca Caputi the local boy that is coming home.

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