Penguins

Shea-ved Ice: Pens Get Solid Return For James Neal

By: Casey Shea
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(Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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After five straight playoff disappointments, the Pittsburgh Penguins needed to make some changes.

Ray Shero, Dan Bylsma, Todd Reirden and Tony Granato? All shown the door.

You can now add James Neal to that list.

General Manager Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger on a big trade with the Nashville Predators during the first round of the NHL Draft in Philadelphia Friday night.

The Penguins received forwards Patric Hornqvist, 27, and Nick Spaling, 25, in exchange for Neal.

At first glance, some may think the Penguins got the short end of the stick in this deal. I’m not so sure that’s the case.

First of all, the 26-year-old Neal has a 40-plus goal a year pedigree. He has one of the deadliest shots and quickest releases in the league.

However, the big knock on him has been his inability to create on his own. Take this year’s playoffs for example. Neal only recorded two goals and two assists in 13 games. He also led the team with 24 penalty minutes.

The majority of that time, he was playing without Evgeni Malkin. I’m sure he played in the series against the New York Rangers, but I’d be hard pressed to remember him being much of a factor.

We also can’t forget the questionable and dirty plays in his game. Remember the knee to the head of Boston’s Brad Marchand?

If there was going to be a player from the supposed “core” of the team, Neal was the guy most likely to go.

That said, I’m a little surprised the Penguins did not at least get a draft pick in addition to the two players.

As for what the Penguins are getting, I’m very excited that Hornqvist will be coming to Pittsburgh,

This is a guy that has scored over 20 goals in four of his six seasons in the NHL, including a career-best 30 goals in 2008-09.

Hornqvist put up those numbers in Nashville. In case you were unaware, they aren’t exactly known for scoring goals.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to think that Hornqvist can score over 30 goals playing with Malkin. He can also create more on his own than Neal.

Are they of equal ability? No, but this isn’t a scrub of a player that the Penguins are getting in return by any means.

As for Spaling, he’ll provide forward depth that the Penguins sorely lacked last season. He also chipped in 13 goals and 19 assists last season, so he’s already an upgrade over much of what the Penguins had in their bottom six.

This wasn’t a salary dump deal either.

Hornqvist has four years left at $4.25 million per. Spaling made $1.5 last year and is an RFA.

For comparison’s sake, Neal’s cap hit was $5 million per year.

Overall, the Penguins spend a little bit more money in the end, but they get Hornqvist, who has a lot of potential to put up numbers here and they bolster the bottom six.

All in all, I think this is a solid trade for Rutherford and the Penguins.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not done yet.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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