The Pittsburgh Penguins' overhaul isn't going to be limited to the front office and coaching staff.
After another disappointing end to the postseason, the roster is getting a shakeup as well, and it's starting with James Neal.
For Nashville, it's a major score to get the type of big-time goal-scorer who the team has been lacking for ... well ... its entire existence.
For Pittsburgh, it's just bizarre. It's worse than bizarre. It borders on downright destructive.
Aside from the fact that Neal is one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, it doesn't really solve any of the Penguins' problems. Pittsburgh has been crushed by a lack of depth and has been right up against the salary cap because of the number of huge contracts going to superstar players. Because of that, the possibility of a major trade was always there, and Neal seemed to be one of the first guys who would be on the list to be shipped out.
But if that's the best they can get in return, what's the point?
Hornqvist is a year older, and while he's been a productive player throughout his career, he's not the type of finisher that Neal is. Guys that put the puck in the net like he does are rare commodities in the NHL these days. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, only nine players have scored more goals than his 110. He's still in the prime of his career and is signed long term at a reasonable rate for a top-line winger.
In return, the Penguins aren't getting any real salary cap relief since Hornqvist counts $4.25 million against the cap -- Neal's contract pays him $5 million per year -- and Spaling, as a restricted free agent, is surely looking at a raise from his $1.25 million salary a year ago.
While they get an extra body and a potential upgrade to their abysmal bottom six, the combination of Hornqvist and Spaling isn't going to make up for what you're losing production-wise in Neal.
It's not that Hornqvist, or even Spaling, are necessarily bad players. Hornqvist is a solid, two-way winger who is a good bet to score 20-25 goals. It's that one All-Star is always better than two good players.
They don't get younger since Hornqvist is actually a year older than Neal, and they don't even have the benefit of getting an additional draft pick in return.
Neal has his flaws and some red flags. He is prone to taking bad penalties and at times plays like an out of control lunatic, and his best days came while playing alongside Evgeni Malkin. But for a team that entered the offseason with only one top-six winger under contract under the age of 35 (Neal), and to trade him for a clear downgrade and do nothing else to solve any of the problems is the type of knee-jerk overreaction that the Penguins did not need this offseason.
So far the Jim Rutherford era has been highlighted by a confusing and bizarre coaching search that saw them get rejected by at least one candidate and now this.
Not exactly a good way to start things off.
Just about the only redeeming thing about this trade for the Penguins is it makes this Tweet from the Mario Lemieux Foundation unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally?) hilarious.