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The winner in Alexei Ponikarovsky's 1-year, $3 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings is Alexei Ponikarovsky(notes).

He gets a $500,000 raise on base salary with a $200,000 signing bonus to convince him move out West. If you go strictly on money against the cap, there's only one forward who signed with a new team that has a higher hit this summer: Matthew Lombardi(notes) with the Nashville Predators.

After flopping with the Pittsburgh Penguins following his trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs -- GM Ray Shero and some Pens fans might politely call it "underwhelming play," but it was dismal at times -- he's going to make as much as Alex Frolov will with the New York Rangers while having every chance to post career best numbers with the talent up front in LA.

Yet for the Kings, the LA Times nailed it with their headline: 'Plan C proves successful.'

They couldn't woo Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) away from his benchmark contract numbers, nor were they willing to blow up their salary structure (or circumvent the cap to the point of NHL inquiry) to sign him. But then they couldn't find a solution on wing via trade, and they couldn't convince Frolov to drag his disgruntled behind back to Hollywood for another season.

So they turned to Ponikarovsky, whom they chased at the trade deadline last season. And he decided to go to LA, which is nice. As we reported in our Free Agent Confidential post, some feel Los Angeles is a destination that some free agents have warmed up to yet. (Pardon the pun ... aw, there's not pardoning that one.):

Two of the agents were on opposite sides of this issue. One said the Kings are clearly a team that's nearing championship contention but was "just not quite there yet." He also said that travel schedule concerns for veteran players do come into play in the open market for teams like Los Angeles.

Another agent didn't believe that the Kings have trouble attracting top free-agent talent, and that this summer was an anomaly: "I don't agree with that. They set their sights on one guy, they made a hell of an offer to get him, but the player wanted $10 million a year or bust. ... I think LA is poised to be the next Chicago."

We imagine Kings fans are trying to figure out this Poni/Fro swap, considering the contract years and numbers sync up so eerily well. Frolov's the better player; Ponikarovsky isn't lobbing charges of mistreatment at the Kings through his agent.

Adam Proteau writes that Poni "has trouble avoiding bad penalties and is a streaky scorer," but you'd much rather have the hungry 30-year-old looking to prove something than the dissatisfied 28-year-old who could never answer the promise his talent made in Los Angeles.

If Frolov is the "low risk, high reward" option, Ponikarovsky is the safe play. Nice, second-line option with players like Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll, according to Jewels From The Crown.

Besides, as Deep Inside The Kings notes, he's got a great hockey name on broadcasts.

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