The Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars — two teams desperate for a spark — finalized a trade today that sends forward Alex Goligoski to Dallas in exchange for forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been mired by injuries to their top forwards, with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin missing significant time this season. To shore up their offense, they traded for James Neal, 24, who was a second round selection in the 2005 NHL Draft. Neal scored 55 points last season, and is on pace to at least equal that total this year. He gives plenty of offensive upside to a Penguins team in dire need of a goal scorer. Neal is under contract for one more season at $2.875 million before becoming a restricted free agent.
The Penguins also obtained young defenseman Matt Niskanen in this trade. Niskanen, 24, was a first round selection in the 2005 NHL Draft. He is also under control for next year at $1.5 million against the cap. Niskanen has struggled the past couple of seasons on both ends of the ice for Dallas, but still carries significant upside on the defensive end. Pittsburgh is hoping that he can rediscover the offensive touch he displayed his first two seasons in the NHL.
In return, the Dallas Stars receive defenseman Alex Goligoski. Goligoski is a very solid defensive player with a +20 rating on the season. At 25, he is a young, cost-controlled and intelligent player that should help solidify their blue line for the playoffs. Goligoski was a second round selection in the 2004 NHL Draft and is under contract for next season as well.
After the St. Louis Blues – Colorado Avalanche blockbuster trade over the weekend, this is just another example of teams willing to trade young talent to fill needs within their roster. The Penguins get a talented scorer with upside, and the Stars get a solid defenseman to put them over the edge in the Pacific Division.
For Colorado, the demand for defensemen is at an all-time high. With John-Michael Liles endlessly rumored to be on the trading block, the return for a player of his caliber would be quite substantial. Don’t be surprised to hear more murmurs of Liles on the move to a desperate team on the verge of the playoffs. If he moves, expect substantial talent and picks to be coming back to Colorado. It’s most certainly that kind of market this year.