Well, it didn’t take long for the supposed rumor of the Penguins and Dallas Stars engaging in trade talks today did it?
This morning, rumors starting flying that the Penguins and Stars were discussing a possible swap of Alex Goligoski for James Neal.
I also found it amusing that the rumor monger known as Eklund had no idea this was even a possibility until the TSN guys chimed in. He was too busy looking into his rumor of Edmonton sending Ales Hemsky to Pittsburgh for a box of Twinkies and some Primanti Brother’s sandwiches.
He’s since backed off that claim and is pushing Hemsky to Dallas.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
Not only are the Penguins getting James Neal, but General Manager Ray Shero was somehow able to land defenseman Matt Niskanen in the deal.
Even more incredible is that both Neal and Niskanen are signed through the end of next season, at which point they would become Restricted Free Agents. This is by no means a deal for rental players for this season.
In Neal, the Penguins get a proven goal scorer in the NHL. This is his third season in the NHL. In the previous two seasons, Neal has registered 24 and 27 goals respectively. He already has 21 this season and is signed for $2.875 million.
Regardless of whether or not Sidney Crosby plays again this season, the Penguins finally got a proven top six forward that can put the puck in the back of the net.
The 6-foot-2-inch power forward isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty either and has 60 penalty minutes this season.
It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the pressure of playing for what could be a contender if healthy. He has also never played in a playoff game at the NHL level. More than likely, that streak will end this spring as the Pens are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Niskanen is another solid pickup in the deal, especially at the bargain price of $1.5 million.
The 6-foot 199 pound defenseman has shown some offensive upside. This is his fourth season in the NHL and he has 16 goals and 66 assists in his career. In 45 games this season, he has six assists and has not found the back of the net.
However, he has blocked 51 shots and four of those assists have come on the power play.
Perhaps a change in scenery will reignite his offensive touch? Time will tell.
In any event, the Penguins still have seven NHL-caliber defensemen on the roster, which means guys will still be competing for ice time. Friendly competition is never a bad thing.
While I’m sad to see Goligoski go, his time in Pittsburgh was likely coming to an end soon anyway. With Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek and Kris Letang signed for at least the next three years, the Pens could afford to dangle him on the trading block to see what teams would be willing to part with.
Not to mention, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy are signed through at least the next two years and prospect Simon Despres (11 goals, 23 assists) is progressing nicely in the QMJHL.
Obviously, the offensive firepower from the defense takes a hit with Goose flying to Dallas, but the Penguins are in desperate need of healthy forwards.
Neal certainly has the makings of being a star in this league for many years to come and hopefully playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will further enhance his abilities.
Help is on the way too as Chris Kunitz may suit up Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks. Dustin Jeffrey and Mark Letestu also took to the ice to work with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar today.
If Crosby is able to come back this season without risking further injury, the Penguins would automatically be placed among the top two or three teams in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs.
Thanks for everything you did in Pittsburgh Goligoski and I wish you the best of luck in Dallas.
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