The weather is starting to change; the days are getting just a little bit shorter; the leaves will be turning before you know it. Just another offseason in the books. But before the Toronto Maple Leafs begin the march towards their first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance since 2004, we wanted to take a look back at the summer that was and who came out with the shortest straw. Starting today, we'll be counting down the ten worst deals of the summer. If you read closely, you just might discover a pattern...
#10 - Carolina Hurricanes sign Alexei Ponikarovsky - July 1st, 2011
We know, we know....this one is a bit of a reach. The Carolina Hurricanes are locked in a fight to
bankruptcy the death with the Calgary Flames over who can acquire the most former Leafs. We're still not sure why, although it may have to do with the fact that both teams have little money to spend or enjoy mediocrity. I have to hand it to Jim Rutherford, though. Why not spend what little money you have on players who helped Paul Maurice to a sterling 76-66-22 record in Toronto? And who could discount all of those playoff appearances? Right?
Not that Ponikarovsky is a terrible hockey player. In fact, he barely missed five consecutive 20 goal seasons while a member of the Leafs. It's just that the big Russian has been a borderline NHL player since leaving the friendly confines of the Air Canada Center. Poni has just 7 goals in 77 games since being traded to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi in 2010. Never a player to log big minutes (he only once averaged over 17 minutes per game in a season), he's now on the downside of 30 and struggled to stay in the Kings lineup last winter. The Kings, a team that was desperate for wingers with size. And who could forget the penalties? Oh god. I've never seen a player with such a penchant for taking as many holding or interference calls 200 feet from the Leafs net as Poni had.
We hope for Ponikarovsky's sake that there's still some left in the tank. He was a loyal Leaf who happened to have been a part of a terrible Leafs squad. But would you have been happy if the Leafs had thrown $1.5 million at his agent? We didn't think so.