When the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins exchanged James Neal for Alex Goligoski it set off a storm of activity that this blog has certainly never seen before. On the main page here, on Twitter, on Facebook...everyone had to weigh in and give their split second, gut reaction to the trade. After all, you can judge these things in an instant right? Like draft picks?
The reaction on the whole was almost completely and totally negative from Stars fans. James Neal is a likable guy and he does something that's very likable: Score goals. Usually about 25 of them or so, and like 27 goal scorer Nik Hagman before him, Neal was thoroughly mourned yesterday afternoon. (The ironic part there is that Hagman was placed on waivers by Calgary yesterday...)
With both teams saying as many nice things about every player involved as they could, both fan bases railing against this and that, or else celebrating, and hockey pundits all over the internet trying to provide analysis of players from a different conference that they probably don't get a chance to watch all that much (though they'd never admit it), it's tough to sort out the garbage and the crap from the useful insight.
Let's take a tour of the feces the monkeys (inducing DBD, of course) flung all over the proverbial walls yesterday afternoon.
The "east coast media types" all started throwing Sidney Crosby's name around as much as possible, as soon as possible. For James Neal's part, he should be elated if the pairing proves true.
-"Since Marian Hossa left, the Penguins have been looking for a power forward, a high-scoring winger to play with Sidney Crosby and the rest of the talented centers in Pittsburgh" - Sporting News
-USA Today couldn't hardly wait to use Sid's name... they didn't even get past the headline "Penguins trade for James Neal to be Sidney Crosby's winger". If you're looking for the analysis there on how Goligoski might help the Stars, you won't find it. It's the Penguins world and we're just living in it, evidently.
-Even Bleacher Report got in on the Sid love with "James Neal: Pittsburgh Penguins Acquire Some Help For Sidney Crosby". I'm not going to link that one. Never, ever read the Bleacher Report.
I would say "hopefully Neal will like the added attention from media in the north east" but I already know he will. After morning skate, while everyone else was avoiding our glances (media) and trying to get out of the room, Nealer would sometimes sit and look invitingly at you.
-Puck Daddy continued the Sidney Crosby theme with...
Wysh correction: Mr. Sean Leahy went on to say this about the Stars situation...
For the Stars, they get an offensive blueliner in Goligoski who's can help bolster their defense, work on their power play and is currently on pace for a career year in production. He's also signed through next season at a $1.833 million cap hit before becoming a restricted free agent. The Stars also freed up some money in the process (Brad Richards(notes) extension, anyone?) as Neal's salary next season will jump from $2.25 million to $3.5 million.
...and then Mr. Puck Daddy himself turned combative in the afternoon with tweets like "So were Dallas fans just pretending Neal was the shit all this time? Or is this revisionism?" -link
Not to address Mr. Wyshynski specifically, because many expressed similar sentiments yesterday, but the answer lies somewhere between.
The word pretending doesn't work because there are a lot of people out there that honestly believe he is worth every bit of hype thrown his way, but there are others that have questioned that wisdom for some time now.
Last fall before camp began we wrote "Is Summer of James Neal Contract Talk Artificially Raising Expectations?" and detailed his issues, which have continued through this season. Much of the attention on Neal today has suggested he's still evolving and that his ceiling has not yet been reached. That may be true of his point total on a line with Sidney Crosby but regular readers of this blog, the DMN and ESPN Dallas know that Neal's game has not "evolved" since he was suspended for hitting Derek Dorsett in November of 2009, and that he has been removed from the Richards line several times since as a message from Marc Crawford.
Which isn't to say we don't like James Neal. We love James Neal. He has phenomenal natural ability. We just don't think the fleecing was quite as bad as it was made out to be.
-EJ Hradek said the deal was a good one for Pittsburgh but hit the mark closer to (our) home when he tweeted later "Don't underestimate the roughly $2.5M worth of real dollar/cap savings for Dallas, which remains budgeted group awaiting ownership change" which I also was sharing at the time "Move took $2.5 M off the books for next season, which in Tom Hicks Fun Dollars translates to a lot more."
-Penguins GM Ray Shero said:
...And it’s difficult to give up Alex. He won a Cup with us here and he’s a really good young defenseman. So they’re difficult to give up, but getting Matt Niskanen in the deal was also important to us, especially by trading Alex during the season. It’s hard to get defenseman at this time of the year, so we’re looking forward to having Matt join us. He’s a young guy, only 25 years old, and he’s had some pretty good years so far in the NHL."
It is hard to get a defenseman this time of year, he's right, and that's something Stars fans should keep in mind.
Still, even though the deal answers a need for Dallas the question here is whether or not the price was too high. Giving up a young and still evolving and improving forward like James Neal just doesn’t feel right at all and handing him over to Pittsburgh to eventually be Crosby’s running mate seems unfair to the rest of the league.
That part about the rest of the league not liking Dallas giving the Penguins Neal is something I think we saw a lot of yesterday in the form of the Stars taking a lot of crap for this trade.
-Noted scholar Matthew Barnaby weighed in on twitter: "Hockey wise dallas gets robbed in deal. Neal will score a lot in pitt - a winger they really needed." So, there's that.
-NHL.com has a fantasy hockey section and they had this to say about Goligoski...
The impact on Goligoski's season is somewhat murkier. The 2004 second-round pick has had decent offensive numbers on the back end this season with nine goals and 22 assists, but his totals aren't terribly eye-catching. That said, on a roster that is absolutely loaded with quality defensemen in Pittsburgh, Goligoski was rarely seeing top-pair minutes -- something that should change in Dallas. It would seem a safe bet for Goligoski to be getting significant ice time with the Stars, a team in need of scoring on the blue line. Neal, to say nothing of steady d-man Matt Niskanen who was also sent to Pittsburgh, would be much too high a price to pay if Goligoski wasn't expected to contribute and contribute immediately.
Expect him to get a significant boost in ice time and with that a boost in production as well. Still, Goligoski's track record is lacking for significant exposure. While it seems certain to change this season, Goligoski has never played 70 games in a season and is still a largely unknown quantity.
Encouraging...and not, all in the same breath.
The Dallas Media
There are three humans, basically, that you should spend your time on when it comes to Stars opinions in Dallas. They are Mike Heika, Mark Stepneski and Bob Sturm. You can waste your time on us after you're done with them if you want, but make sure you get those guys in your rotation.
Mark Stepneski doesn't often offer this kind of frank opinion unless you're sitting next to him in the press box, so I think everyone liked this one...
I’ll be honest. I like Alex Goligoski. When the Goligoski to Dallas rumors surfaced during Stars practice this morning I thought about volunteering to pick him up at the airport if the deal got done.
In other words, I like the trade. Not just because I like Goligoski as a player, but because of what he brings to the Dallas lineup. He’s a good, young puck moving defenseman who can provide some offensive punch to the Stars’ blue line and bring some skill to the point on the power play. It’s something the Stars needed. And now they have it.
To get it they gave up a good, young goal scorer in James Neal. It’s a cliché, but it fits here – you’ve got to give up something to get something. The Stars needed to improve the blue line and they needed to send something of quality the other way.
Mike Heika is of a similar mind...
It's definitely a risk, but I think it moves an asset from an area of strength (left wing) to get an asset in an area of weakness (defense).
Neal could become a very good player, especially on that team, but Jamie Benn can step into his place and be just as good or better. The Stars need a player like Goligoski on defense.
The question, I guess, would be whether tossing Niskanen in was too much, but the Stars may have found out that the market for Niskanen by himself wasn't that great. Niskanen also could become better in Pittsburgh. A trade could help clear his head a little and get him away from the pressure he felt in Dallas. But, I truly believe the Stars were not going to get the best of Matt Niskanen had he remained here.
Bob Sturm shared the drama via twitter...
Fixing blueline is top priority. This deal is not bad, peeps. PP, breakouts, and scoring ability are all added. Now, about #91...
@brandonworley: Judging by fan reaction, it seems Neal was way overvalued by Stars fans." gagreed. Nice player, low impact too often.
A 39 pt forward who plays with Richards for a 31 pt defenseman is seen as a horrid idea? Breathe.
So the consensus here from people that watch and often re-watch every second of Dallas Stars hockey and attend the games is, surprise, similar to what we said here on DBD yesterday. Dallas dealt from a position of strength, they addressed a need. You have to give to get. Let's see how this plays out.
Razor hasn't weighed in yet but I'm sure here will here on his blog.
Richard Durrett normally does baseball these days but he opined on the deal, calling James Neal expendable.
And Jean Jacques Taylor....naa I'm just kidding.