Remember that time earlier this season when Sidney Crosby got in a fight? Against Matt Niskanen of the Dallas Stars? The two are teammates now.
In a deal that immediately helps the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ray Shero had acquired Niskanen, a defenseman, and forward James Neal in exchange for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Bob McKenzie of TSN broke the news.
It was expected that Goligoski would be the Penguin to be traded, as defense is a position of strength in the Pittsburgh organization. When it was rumored earlier in the afternoon on Monday that Neal could be the possible return on Goligoski, Stars fans at SB Nation's Defending Big D weren't too sure of the deal.
The Stars are in need of defensive help, not offensive help that happens to be on the blue line. Goligoski is questionable in his own end at times but he does chip in on the offensive side of the puck quite a bit. He has 31 points this season, thanks in part to a lot of power play time. His potential is high, but at current, he's not any more than a fourth defenseman, at best.
In that sense, Goligoski replaces Niskanen in Dallas. Niskanen was a healthy scratch recently and only found his way back into the Stars lineup thanks to injury, so from that perspective, the deal makes plenty of sense for Dallas.
When you add Neal to the mix, though, it doesn't make so much sense -- at least on the surface. DBD's Brandon Worley tried to justify the thinking of Joe Nieuwendyk earlier today after the initial rumors began to swirl:
James Neal is a fan favorite, mostly based on what we saw from him his rookie season and the start of last year. Since then, all we talk about is "potential" while we wait for the old Neal to show back up. There's a very likely chance that Neal's value will plummet as he continues to struggle to create offense on his own and now more than ever the Stars are looking at the highest value they'd get for him.
Of all the forwards the Stars could use in a potential trade, James Neal makes the most sense. He has fallen from untouchable status to expendable while the rest of the NHL still covets the potential he brings to the table. If you think about it, a player like Goligoski in exchange for Neal makes sense and to expect anything more in return is asking way too much.
Neal will help the Penguins this season. There's no doubt about that. If Worley's assessment is accurate, this may have been a smart move for the Stars. In terms of this current season, though, it's easy to see how the Penguins are the winners here.
Niskanen may or may not replace Goligoski on the blueline in Pittsburgh, but he's really just a throw-in. Shero picked up a player in Neal that still does have potential, even if it has become stagnant in Dallas according to Worley, and he's also added a player who can help the Penguins right now. Pittsburgh is a better team than they were this morning, while Dallas has taken a step back.
At the same time, the Stars have cleared upwards of $2 million from the salary cap with this deal, which is certainly an indication that Nieuwendyk is set on re-signing Brad Richards. If trading Neal and Niskanen helps the Stars re-sign their star, can you really call this a loss for Dallas?
For more from the Pittsburgh perspective, check SB Nation's Pensburgh.