Due to the countless injuries, we all expected Penguins GM Ray Shero to be active before Monday’s deadline… yet didn’t know in what matter. Would he pull of a blockbuster, or just go with a depth pickup? Well, we got that answer today.
Shero pulled the trigger on a big deal to acquire James Neal and Matt Niskanen from Dallas for defenseman Alex Goligoski. The initial reaction to this deal is that Shero bested Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, which is hard to argue.
All Neal has done since coming into the league is score goals. The second-round pick from 2005 has 72 goals in 214 career games, including a career-high 27 in 2009/10 (his second full year in the NHL). He could finally be that scoring winger that Sidney Crosby has needed. With a healthy Crosby next to him, Neal could easily score more than 30 goals.
Pittsburgh did not hurt its team too much to acquire Neal. Goligoski, though talented, became expendable due to Kris Letang’s breakout year and is more known as a power play specialist. He had 31 points and a plus-20 rating with the Pens through 60 games. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to a bigger role with the Stars, who have needed some offense from the back end.
A nice plus in this deal for Shero and the Pens is that they don’t have to replace Goligoski with a regular scratch or someone from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Niskanen, a late first-rounder in 2005 who has underachieved at the NHL level, has comparable offensive skills to Goligoski. It’s a downgrade, but it shouldn’t affect the great defense corps of Pittsburgh’s.
One theory as to why the Stars traded two roster players for Goligoski (as pointed out by Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon) is that it could enhance their chances of re-signing Brad Richards this offseason. All three players included are free agents after this year, and Dallas saves approximately $2.5 million of cap space for next season by making this deal. Could that be enough to keep Richards?
If this deal was made with the intention of keeping Richards long-term, then it makes sense. That said, losing Neal at this time in the season will be a blow to that lineup. Dallas has needed to acquire an offensive-minded defenseman for some time, but will Goligoski be the answer? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the Pens pick up some much-needed offense in Neal. He should slide right onto the top line for
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