With the trading deadline coming closer and closer each day, there was debate as to whether or not Penguins general manager Ray Shero would make a move. On Monday, the debate came to an end as the Penguins shipped off young defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars for 23 year-old winger James Neal and 24 year-old defenseman Matt Niskanen. Many thought that Shero would hold off on making a deal until he learned the status of his superstar Sidney Crosby, who has been out 47 days with a concussion, but he made a bold move to acquire the winger that the Pens have been looking for. Does this mean that Crosby is on his way back and they are looking to replace Evgeni Malkin’s production? Or is it simply to get scoring that the team has lacked lately with their depleted roster? Either way, I trust Shero who has an excellent track record at the deadline (minus the Alex Ponikarovsky deal last year).
So who are these players that we acquired? James Neal is in his third year and scored 24 goals his rookie year, 27 last year and currently has 21 through 59 games this season so far. Just the type of player that the Penguins need during the stretch run. The best part about Neal is that he is signed through the 2011-2012 season at $3 million per year which is a great value for a proven scorer. Whether the Penguins put him on Crosby’s line or move him to the second line, he is a great addition either way. Matt Niskanen has just 6 points on the season and will battle Ben Lovejoy for time as the third defensive pairing with Deryk Engelland. Niskanen is a good addition, but the clear steal here is Neal.
There are some Penguins fans who will question this move as to why they parted with Goligoski. He is young and is 5th on the team in points with 31. However, the depth that the Penguins have at the blue line thanks to Shero, leaves Goligoski as the odd man out. With Brooks Orpik, Krist Letang, Zybnek Michalek and Paul Martin in front of Goligoski, it was the right move to make. His contract is up at the end of next year and he is the most valuable trade piece the Penguins have. Sure there is Max Talbot and Tyler Kennedy, but if Talbot only has 6 goals for us on the season, do you really think he will fetch anything great in return? With all the injuries the Pens have suffered, Kennedy has stepped up and scored some crucial goals for the Penguins and is too valuable right now to let go. In order to get the piece that you want, you have to be willing and able to give something valuable in return.
Although Goligoski is a proven scorer from the defensive position, the Penguins will be in good shape. With the aforementioned Lovejoy returning from injury soon, as well as tough guy Engelland and the newcomer Niskanen manning the third pairing, the Pens will be ok for the rest of the year. More importantly is the offensive-defenseman, Simon Despres, their first round pick in 2009 that is waiting in the minor leagues. Many thought he would be ready to make the team this season, but he just missed the team coming into camp. Despres allowed Goligoski to become expendable.
With Malkin’s season ending injury freeing up over $8 million dollars in cap space and Neal and Niskanen taking up $4 million of it, will Shero continue to make more moves? I love the trade and look forward to the contributions from both men but especially look forward the Neal giving the Penguins the scoring winger that they have needed for some time.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com