With the injury situation in Pittsburgh a lot of people were unsure of what Ray Shero might do at the deadline. There was some talk about Kovy coming back to the Penguins but in the grand scheme of things there was very little talk about the Penguins making the splash play. A lot of that had to do with the uncertainty of Sidney Crosby coming back this season. Ray Shero cares not for speculation.
When I was at the United Center yesterday I was able to talk to a lot of Penguins fans and even some Chicago fans about the state of the Penguins and what was going to go on for the rest of the season. For a vast majority of Penguins fans they were more than content with sitting Bing down for the season and staying pat at the deadline and seeing where this team was going to go. I was a part of that. I talked about this before in my post on Saturday, but getting Bing healthy for the long run is more important to me than trying to get first in the Atlantic and rush to get him back and risk further injury.
Today was kind of weird. Early in the day Darren Dreger talked about a deal that the Penguins and Stars were talking about swapping Alex Goligoski for James Neal. If you remember last year the Penguins were being tied into talks about James Neal but the Stars organization saw him as a key piece to their future and Ray Shero was not going to sell the farm for Neal. This year it came up again, and to be honest I really didn't see much happening this this. Stuff like this gets tweeted out (about teams talking) but a lot of it never really comes to fruition.
A little later in the day it was kinda being thrown around that a straight swap, Neal for GoGo, wasn't going to be enough for the Stars. Some Pens names were thrown out there but nothing too serious. Then it just happened.
Not that this was a huge surprise since we saw some things about this earlier, but it was just stunning as there wasn't much said in the half hour leading up. Bob McKenzie is probably the best in the business at this stuff. Nobody even thought twice when they saw this you knew it was done.
What I thought most most revealing about this was that there were reports of Dallas wanting more and maybe this being a four player deal total (two each way) but when it comes down that the Penguins got a two for one you really have to wonder what went on. Neal is the prize piece but Shero was able to get another d-man in return in Niskanen. What a job by Ray Shero.
Lets take a look at the guys the Penguins got:
Neal is a 23 year old winger that was a second round draft pick (33rd overall) by the Dallas Stars three years ago.
In three seasons with the Stars Neal has 72 goals and has 20+ goals in all three seasons. I believe I heard he is on track for about 29 goals this season, and he is only 23.
Matt Niskanen is only 24 years old and was a first round pick (28th overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft. While the Penguins traded an offensive player, that is not Niskanen's game. He is more of a defensive player and that is more than ok with me. The Penguins have a plethora of offensive blue liners so it was good they at least got a d-man in the deal.
I am not going to lie, when this was being talked about I was really on the fence about it. GoGo has been a whipping boy for Penguins fans for a long time, but he has been having a pretty good season. He has 31 points and was starting to come into it. He seems to be developing slowly, but it is not like GoGo is an old player. He is young, just like the players the Penguins got in return so it will be interesting to watch him evolve in Dallas where he will be asked to carry more of a top-4 load on the blue line. I think when push came to shove this was just too good of a deal to pass up for the Penguins.
I am pretty excited about getting Neal as he is something the Penguins have been talking about needing for a long time now. He has been talked about as a Chris Kunitz type of player with a much better shot and much better hands. He can score goals and he isn't afraid to get in front of the net. He instantly makes this offense better.
What is maybe the best part of the deal for the Penguins is that this just isn't a move for this year. Neal is locked up for one more year at $2.875 million and then he is a restricted free agent. Niskanen has another year on his deal after this year and he is sitting at $1.5 million and is also a restricted free agent after his contract is up so these are far from just rental player deals. With the youth of both of these players and the retricted player free agency they are going to be a part of the future (for at least another year) and possibly further down the line. That is an underrated part of the deal today.
I will miss GoGo. I wish him all the best in Dallas and I will defiantly be watching more Stars games on my Center Ice package to see how he is playing.
Let's take a look at some video of the new Penguins.
Yes, he did fight Bing earlier this year: