The Neal Deal - Did It Work?
PHOTO CREDIT: AP
Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk had a tough situation to fight through at the trade deadline. Forward Brad Richards was fighting the symptoms of a concussion, and the Dallas Stars found themselves in and out of the playoff picture day in and day out. It seemed almost unprecedented that Nieuwendyk would ship off a key piece of the Stars' offensive picture.
But he did. Neal, along with defenseman Matt Niskanen, was shipped to Pittsburgh for defenseman Alex Goligoski.
It was easy to see the reasoning on both sides of this deal. The Pittsburgh Penguins were desperately looking for two things--short term offense in the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and a proven scoring winger to work with either one. The Stars needed to turn around their powerplay, and acquire a consistent offensive defenseman to speed up the team's breakouts.
But was it too much to give up both Neal AND Niskanen for Goligoski? It was easy to jump on the Stars for making a lopsided move that, on the surface, looked like it would bite the Stars in the butt for a while to come. But as of right now, the trade has surprisingly favored the Stars.
Neal has struggled mightily with the Penguins, tallying only a goal and two assists and a minus one in nine games. With the Stars, he tallied 21 goals in 59 games. Matt Niskanen's potential to be a solid defenseman has fallen off, showing bouts of inconsistency. Niskanen's first two seasons saw him put up above average points for a defenseman. However, he has not fared too much better with the Penguins thus far. Goligoski has pumped 21 pucks on net in 10 games with one goal and seven assists and a +4.
Stats surely don't tell the whole story, but Alex Goligoski has revolutionized the defense core as well as the salary cap picture of the Dallas Stars. Not only do the Stars have a mobile, deadly shot from the back end, but they acquired a cheaper asset for the potential re-signing of Richards. If the Stars are to remain competitive next year, that move would easily be in their best interest.
Both teams will easily miss their players' contributions to their respective former teams. But this move of several young studs will take more than ten games to really figure out how well this trade will work out. As for the Stars, they have a top-pair offensive defenseman to control the play. For Goligoski to be most effective, he needs to be paired with a bigger, more physical defenseman to clear the porch. Currently, he is paired with Stephane Robidas. Both have trouble clearing the porch at times, but both have the ability to keep the play moving.
When it comes time, the Stars will have a restricted free agent on their hands, and it will be one they need to put top priority on re-signing. For right now, the organization can be happy they have a young stud defenseman in their ranks. Next step? The playoffs.