Goligoski to Dallas; Pens Land Neal

Alex Goligoski for James Neal and Matt Niskanen? Yeah, I’d do it. At least that’s my initial reaction to Monday’s deal, which saw the Penguins ship Gogo to the Dallas Stars for winger Neal and defenseman Niskanen. Let’s take a closer look at the trade.

The key to this deal is Neal, who’s scored over 20 goals in each of his three professional seasons, including 21 in 59 games so far this campaign. It’s easy to see Neal, who’s signed through 2011-12, on a line with Sidney Crosby. He’s big (6’2”, 210 pounds), physical (120 hits) and his style is similar to one of Sid’s other wingers, Chris Kunitz. Neal and Kunitz are both natural left wingers, but here’s hoping one can seamlessly move to the right side. Neal can also play on the power play (5 goals this season).

Niskanen, a former first-round pick in his fourth professional campaign, is perhaps most famous for fighting Crosby earlier this season. Niksanen’s point totals have dropped off since he registered 35 two seasons ago, and he only has 6 assists this season. Nonetheless, he’s proven he can contribute at this level, and he should fit nicely with Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy in the Pens third-pairing rotation.

All this brings us to Goligoski, who’s the unfortunate collateral damage in this trade. There’s no doubt Gogo will be missed. But you have to give something of quality to get something of quality, and that’s what happened here. Goligoski was enjoying arguably his best season with 9 goals and 22 assists in 60 games. He was good on the power play, and he was an offensive threat every time he was out there. But Goligoski was prone to turnovers, and he certainly wasn’t the toughest player in his own end.

Look at the trade this way – the Pens dealt its #5 defenseman for a potential first-line winger. Pittsburgh’s top-two defense pairings remain intact, and Neal is going to add some immediate offensive firepower. The downside? Well, the PP is definitely worse off today than it was yesterday. Click here to see what Blackout Dallas thinks of the deal.

Is this the last move the Pens will make before the trade deadline? I wouldn’t think so, but if it is, this is a significant – and good – move.

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