Two Russians signed contracts yesterday, and two general managers apparently think they are filling immediate needs on their clubs.
But this pair of drop-in-the-well acquisitions by the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings seems more like the time I bought the fourth edition of a textbook instead of the required ninth version—just to save a little money and make it look like I was on the ball.
Alexes Ponikarovsky and Frolov have top-end talent and one of them (the former) possesses the frame of an ox. Both signed one-year, $3 million deals today, but what else is similar?
Neither is a good fit for his respective club.
My buddy asked me today what I thought of the Frolov contract. I said, “puck that!”
THE DEAL: Alex Frolov; 1-year, $3 million with the Rangers.
THE PROBLEM: He’s overpaid and known to be lazy.
NOT-SUCH-A-PROBLEM: He fits right in with his new teammates.
If I were a general manager, Frolov would not strike me as the kind of player I’d wait until near August to sign to a multi-million dollar deal. With his natural ability and scoring touch, you would think that he’d be snatched up real quick. Especially for that coin.
Curiously, something doesn’t add up there. Rangers GM Glen Sather is known to be a very calculated and frugal executive. But after I un-staple my tongue from my cheek, I’ll continue.
Because I am not Sather, I can say that this is a very Sather-esque transaction. The real needs on his club (better defenders and better defending forwards) have been ignored, and he strikes at will to acquire a guy he think will score goals. Fantastic.
For all of these big contracts, it appears he’s forgotten that he still pays Wade Redden and Michal Roszival.
This has seemingly been conducted in reverse order. Sather has dished out a multi-year deal to Derek Boogaard and overpaid Dan Girardi by about a million dollars.
So what would I do? Here we go:
First, I would not have signed Frolov at this point of the offseason. Maybe I have a soft spot for guys that swallow their pride and accept a low-money deal and work their tail off, but in this situation I’d prefer Maxim Afinogenov.
The guy made $800,000 last year and produced a career season. I get that he was in a desperate situation and had a ton of motivation, but give the guy a break. He bit the bullet and gave it his all. That’s not to say Frolov isn’t worthy of an NHL contract (I think he is, but not from the Rangers). But if I were running the Rangers hockey operations, this guy would have been far down my list.
By saving a little cash and pursuing Max, I would have more available funds to focus on re-signing a key cog in my lineup—defenseman Marc Staal.
Eric Belanger would also be on my radar. If possible, I would attempt to bump Erik Christensen out of his third-line center position and plug a guy like Belanger in.
Why? Because he’s a better fit for the Rangers. They desperately need an experienced pivot to anchor a checking line. Who on the current roster (other than Drury, who’s paid to be a top-two) could you entrust in that role? Exactly.
A top-six group that includes Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Frolov and possibly Mats Zuccarello Aasen (yeah, that overhyped little dude from the Olympics) sure looks good. But Frolov glares at me, much in the way Nikolai Zherdev’s name did at one time.
I say “puck that” to Frolov, and “puck yeah” to acquiring Afinogenov and coming to terms with Staal.
But maybe Sather just wants more of the Kings’ sloppy seconds.
About the Author
Written by Rob Mixer
I am a former sports staff writer and assistant sports editor at The Post, Ohio University's student-run, daily newspaper. I live in Columbus and am a contributing writer to The Adovcate in Newark.