The Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars completed a three player deal this afternoon. Twenty-three year old forward James Neal moves to the Penguins along with 24-year old defenseman Matt Niskanen in exchange for 25-year old defenseman Alex Goligoski who joins the Stars.
Pittsburgh is getting a talented goal-scorer in Neal who will be looking to increase his production and give the Penguins an offensive boost. Neal has scored 21 goals through 59 games and could be an immediate remedy as Sidney Crosby remains sidelined due to post-concussion syndrome. Along with the absence of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin has been shelved for the remainder of the season with multiple knee tears.
Neal’s presence should take some of the slack off of Pittsburgh’s forwards who not only miss stars like Crosby and Malkin but are also without the services of Chris Kunitz and Mike Comrie. The injury-prone Comrie is currently on the long-term injury reserve following hip surgery but Kunitz could make a swift return as he’s already begun skating.
Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma is expecting Kunitz be back in the Pittsburgh lineup sooner rather than later.
“He’s progressing towards a full practice and playing in the near future,” Bylsma told reporters. “Hopefully, by the end of the week, possibly (against) San Jose. But hopefully by the end of the week.”
The Stars believe that Goligoski will solidify their blue-line after the club struggled during a rough three-game trip to Western Canada. Dallas was out-scored 13-5 by the Oilers, Flames and Canucks collectively during that stretch.
Goligoski is a two-way defenseman who has put up 31 points through 60 games and carries an impressive plus-20 rating. Dallas will be hoping that his playoff experience will rub off on their defensive corp as he was part of the Pittsburgh’s 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team.
Stars’ general manager Joe Nieuwendyk seems pleased with his new acquisition.
“We’re very excited to add Alex Goligoski to our hockey club,” he said. “Alex is a legitimate top-four defenseman who will have a positive impact on our entire crops of blue-liners. He has averaged over 20 minutes per game and can play in all situations.”
The deal could have a positive effect on both clubs during the playoffs. Once Crosby returns, Neal would make a useful line-mate as he’s shown that he has a flair for scoring. Goligoski is an all-around defenseman who can help take the burden off of Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley who each average over 23 minutes per game.