May 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing James Neal (18) celebrates his third period hat trick goal against the Ottawa Senators during the third period in game five of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 6-2 to close out the series. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For Cap Purposes, Pens Should Trade James Neal

Considering the Pittsburgh Penguins are so adamant on keeping defenseman Paul Martin — why not just trade forward James Neal?

Call me crazy, but before you do, did anyone see him this past postseason?

Or better yet, has anybody seen him in the playoffs throughout his entire stay with Pittsburgh at all?

Let me hit you with some facts — in 25 postseason games, Neal has recorded a mere 18 points (9G, 9A) and skated to a horrendous overall minus-7 rating.

The regular-season power play goal scoring machine, well not so much in the playoffs.

He’s amassed three, count ‘em three, power play goals in the past two Stanley Cup runs. This coming from a guy who makes his living on the man advantage.

Okay so he was injured this past postseason, I’ll give you that; however, hockey fans know that almost every player is hurting at the end of the season.

Yes of course Neal is a dynamic scorer, whose created a powerful two-man line with superstar Evgeni Malkin — but is he really worth the money with the way Pittsburgh’s salary cap stands right now?

The Pens are $1,098,333 million over the cap, have the second-highest payroll in the NHL, and Neal will make an average annual salary of $5 million over the next five campaigns.

Understandably they could shed some of that debt with a potential trade involving defenseman Matt Niskanen — whose been rumored to be moved — but it won’t free up enough to make any future deals.

Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Kris Letang have all received ginormous contracts — deals that will keep them in Pittsburgh for at least the next nine seasons.

And as I’ve referenced earlier, the team is probably not going to depart with Martin — who’ll make $5 million over the next two seasons.

The only other player that makes sense to move is defenseman Brooks Orpik — who’ll be an unrestricted free agent following the 2013-14 campaign — but his history with Pittsburgh suggests he won’t be.

So when it comes down to it, are the Pens seriously intent on giving all that money to Neal for the next five seasons?

You can look back at all his spectacular games — like Game 3 and Game 4 against the Ottawa Senators this past postseason — but is he really consistent enough to invest in?

Neal is still 25-years-old — so there’s room for improvement.  But with the way Pittsburgh’s finances look, and with future stars in their system on the horizon, don’t be surprised if Neal’s name surfaces in trade speculation.

Although for now, the team will probably keep number-18 because of their shortage in wingers.

Nothing is stopping them from acquiring a better one though.

In 140 regular-season contests with Pittsburgh, Neal has garnered 123 points (62G, 66A) and skated to an overall plus-2 rating.

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