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PUCK That! Frolov Should Be a Lone Ranger

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.

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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.

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In response to “PUCK That! Frolov Should Be a Lone Ranger”

  1. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 201010:42 am


    I don’t understand how you could criticize this deal, to be honest. Last year the Rangers’ biggest problem was scoring goals. Sure, Afinogenov might be a good fit, but we can’t say for sure that we’d get him for less than Frolov, and quite frankly, Frolov has a better rounded game.

    I agree we need a better shut-down defenceman, and we need to re-sign Staal, but my feeling is that Staal will be signed at the expense of Wade Redden being demoted to the minors or Rozsival being demoted or traded or sent to Europe.

    As for better defensive forward, I humbly disagree that this is an area of weakness. Callahan is one of the best checking forwards in the league, and Drury does a good job on the third line (despite his retarded contract). Plug in a guy like Anisimov or Christensen or Avery and you have a solid third line…

    As for Frolov, he’s scored over 30 goals twice, which is something the Rangers lacked last year other than Gaborik. In my books, this is Sather’s best signing other than Biron.

    1. Rob Mixer Jul 28 20103:37 pm


      I’m critcizing and analyzing the deal from the perspective of hindsight–what I would do differently. This could inevitably work out for the Rangers, but for less money there is no doubt in my mind that Afinogenov could be signed.

      Sure, Frolov has scored 30 goals twice in his career. Afinogenov has scored at least 20 goals four times, and at least 14 goals seven times. There would be a bit more security with the alternative if you’re looking for consistency.

      If the Rangers biggest problem is scoring goals, then there appears to be too much money tied up in the players you’ve referenced as “defensive forwards.” One year of Frolov at $3 million is stretching it if you’re looking for an offensive remedy. And you have outlined the problem–Chris Drury at that salary is incredulous on the third line. Adding Frolov for considerable money seems to further augment the issue.

      Yes, Biron is a good signing and one of the best No. 2 goaltenders available. I completely agree with you. But I do take issue with people assuming “dumping a guy in the minors” or “sending him to Europe” is as easy as logging into your email. These two options are viable if 1) you can stomach the financial responsibility and 2) the NHLPA doesn’t intervene.

      What reason do the Rangers have for banishing Redden to the minors? Crappy play? If that were the case, half of the Southeast Division would be in the AHL. It would be very difficult. And with a European club–they have to want him too. How many clubs that need fan support are dying for Wade Redden or Michal Roszival?

  2. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 20103:55 pm


    5 20 goal seasons from Frolov, plus the two at 30+ seems like an equal comparison to Afinogenov… Plus Frolov can play either wing while Afinogenov only plays RW thus far… Frolov is much better defensively as well…

    The point being that the Rangers made a good deal here because a one-year pact with a proven offensive talent bridges the gap until guys like Stepan, Grachev and others can come up. We don’t know that Afinogenov will come cheaper (as he still hasn’t been signed)… So, my point overall is that Frolov is a low-risk and potentially high-reward kind of player.

    As for having a lot of money tied up in our defensive forwards, the only guy that really leaps off the page is Drury, but that’s a Sather issue (so much for being frugal, huh?)

    Dumping Redden in the minors isn’t hard to accomplish. The NHLPA doesn’t have a leg to stand on if nobody will trade for Redden and his insane contract. Believe me, the Dolans can easily afford to swallow that contract, and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it since Redden doesn’t have a no-movement clause. He has an NTC, which is irrelevant in terms of dumping him to the minors.

    As for Rozi, he would be signed in a heartbeat back in our homeland (CZR) by Sparta Prague or another one of our Extraliga teams. They LOVE having guys come back home to finish their careers. The KHL would also have at least some interest in him, especially when he’d come super-cheap (Rangers would still have to pay his contract).

    The Rangers don’t need a reason to dump these guys into the minors. It’s business.

  3. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 20103:59 pm


    Seriously, if you look at where the Rangers finished last year in terms of goals for and goals against, the clear need is offensive support, not defence. They had a better GA rating than half the teams that made the playoffs ahead of them, but only outscored two of those teams and tied one (NJ). I maintain that Frolov is exactly what the doctor ordered, and on a short-term deal for relatively low salary, I think this is a coup for Sather. Likely the only good move outside of Biron that he’ll make all year!

    1. Rob Mixer Jul 28 20104:07 pm


      Keep in mind–I’m not vehemently against anything you’ve said. The point of the column (which will be regular) is selecting a transaction and offering what I would have done differently, that’s all. With regard to the Rangers’ goals-for and against numbers, you are correct. The need would appear to be scoring. But I maintain that’s what Drury was signed for, yes? Not to play on the third line. Does Frolov bring a different style of game? You bet.

      I do think Frolov is a more rounded player, but better defensively? Keep in mind this player spent significant time in the press box this year on a very good defensive hockey team.

      And the comment about Sather being frugal was sarcasm. Sorry if it didn’t properly translate. Happens to me a lot.

      The NHLPA will argue that the Rangers offered, and Redden signed. There’s no foul, and no therefore no reason to “dump” him. I would surmise that a similar counterpoint would be made to something we’ve heard about recently. Can the NHL assume that the Rangers are trying to circumvent the salary cap? I think there’s a case to be made.

      1. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 20104:14 pm


        Oh, I understood the sarcasm behind the frugality comment, I was just bringing it further to light that Sather likes to throw money around…lol

        Frolov is better defensively than Afinogenov, is bigger, and younger as well (as far as I’m aware)… I like Max, but realistically, there has to be a reason why they opted for Frolov, and it can’t just be Sather’s hockey dementia.

        Drury won’t be a top-6 player in terms of scoring any time soon. He’s okay for the odd clutch goal, but realistically he can’t skate very well and doesn’t play a style to match up with any of the other top-6 forwards, so he has become a very reliable third line guy. Salary doesn’t equate to production, especially for the Rags…

        As for the NHLPA making an argument, that is their right, but they’ll lose. Redden will still be paid his NHL salary, but he’ll be earning it in Hartford. The NHLPA can try to summon all the labor laws they want, but there is nothing in the CBA preventing the Rags from sending him down.

        The NHL won’t put the case there that the Rangers are trying to circumvent the cap, simply because a quick look at Redden’s last two seasons will show that he doesn’t play at a level consistent with the expectations of a player making over $6M per season. It’s a simple process that the Rangers will win in less than a half hour if it ever goes to tribunal.

        1. Rob Mixer Jul 28 20104:23 pm


          I’ll have to check, but I cannot remember an instance of a high-salary player being sent down.

          To think that the NHLPA would mercilessly lose is a bit wishful, honestly. If the Rangers were given the green-light immediately, it would set a lethal and dangerous precedent for future incidents. Should the Rangers announce their intent, it would not be a quick process. There would be backlash, legal stuff, etc. It’s sports–there’s never an easy solution.

          For all the talk about the Blackhawks dumping Huet in the minors to make cap room, where’s that? If it was such a simple solution, they would have done that a long, long time ago. Instead, they had to trade players they valued. Then trade a player (Reasoner) they received because they couldn’t take on anything else.

  4. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 20104:26 pm


    Huet’s performance was decent, Redden’s hasn’t been for YEARS!!! That’s the only difference you need to consider when looking at the potential NHLPA grievance situation.

    High salary players have been sent down in the past, but I’ll have to look up the specifics in terms of who it was. I fail to see any legal recourse by the PA in this case. As long as the Rags pay Redden his $6.5M per season, they are perfectly within their rights to send him down…

    1. Rob Mixer Jul 28 20104:30 pm


      On that same token, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say the Devils are within their rights to offer Ilya Kovalchuk a 17-year contract, just as long as they pay him the money?

      But look at the Capitals’ situation with Nylander. That began a couple years ago, and they are still trying to peddle him away. Granted, he’s in Europe now, but he had a handful of trips through waivers just to facilitate a move further down the line.

      It’s a scenario that can be done, yes. But worth going through the trouble? Probably not.

      1. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 20104:44 pm


        What trouble? Redden either clears waivers or he doesn’t… If someone is stupid enough to pick him up, it’s even better for the Rangers. Otherwise, he goes to the minors. You can’t force a team to keep him on the roster when avenues exist to get rid of him. You still have to pay him the money, but in order to maintain him in the NHL without recourse would require a NO MOVEMENT CLAUSE… Redden doesn’t have one!!! There has to be a reason for the clause to exist in the first place, right?

        As for the Kovalchuk situation, it’s a retarded contract, but I have no problem with people exploiting loopholes… Hossa, Pronger and others have been given similar deals, and the NHL had no recourse. I say let the Devils have him at the $6M cap hit and be done with the grandstanding. Quite frankly, it’s the league’s fault for not covering their bases.

        In my opinion, deals like that could easily be avoided if a player’s salary at the start of the year was the actual cap hit, instead of averaging it out over the years… Also, the cap hit should stay, regardless of whether the player signed before or after he turns 35 years of age (upon retirement).

  5. Dan Rakusan Jul 28 20104:27 pm


    Oh, and for the instance of an example, look at Michael Nylander with the Capitals… He was sent down, then sent packing to Europe. It CAN be done…

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