It started as speculation early this morning that Pittsburgh and Dallas were discussing a trade involving Stars forward James Neal and Pittsburgh defenseman Alex Goligoski. Speculation became reality this afternoon as the teams pulled off a three-player deal with Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen headed to Pittsburgh in exchange for Goligoski.
The snap reaction on this trade is that Dallas got robbed. Badly. Neal is the key part of this deal. He’s 23 years-old and stuck in a bit of a down season with the suddenly slumping Stars. With 21 goals and 18 assists his 39 points don’t rank out all too high with the other players on Dallas, but if you put that production into the Pittsburgh lineup Neal is third on the team in points and behind only Crosby in goals scored.
In Neal’s first two seasons he’s scored 24 and 27 goals respectively and finished those seasons with 37 and 55 points. He’s young, he’s talented, he’s big (6’2″ 208 pounds) and he can fill the net. When Sidney Crosby returns from his concussion, having a gift-wrapped running mate to play on his left side like James Neal is going to give him the sort of talented winger the Penguins have been looking for since Crosby emerged on the scene in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh getting Matt Niskanen in the deal as well is more of a boost for the Stars as they’re able to lose his contract off the books while bringing in a better defenseman in Goligoski. Niskanen is an average depth defenseman who’s still young and can grow. Getting him in Pittsburgh to learn from the likes of Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik will help him grow up.
In Goligoski, the Stars get the power play specialist and play maker on the blue line they haven’t had since Sergei Zubov left for Russia. Goligoski was prone to mistakes in Pittsburgh which the fans were a bit too hard on him about, but he’s going to be a fine addition in Dallas and provide them something they haven’t had in a while from the blue line. When Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley are your big point producers as defensemen you’ve got a big problem. Goligoski will fix that.
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.
The only potential saving grace here for Dallas is if they dished Neal and Niskanen off to help save money to potentially get Brad Richards signed to a long term deal. With Dallas’ ownership situation still unsettled and now one of Richards’ main guys being tossed aside, you have to wonder if this deal is a prudent course of action.
Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t even nine minutes old by the time Dale Weise had recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick.
Already with the opening goal and an assist on Radko Gudas‘ goal, giving Philly a 3-0 lead, Weise dropped the gloves with Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic for a spirited fight off a faceoff.
Not many, if any, positives for the Islanders after a disastrous start. Needing a win to close the gap on the Boston Bruins in the wild card race, New York fell behind 5-0 by the time the first period was over.
There is perhaps even more bad news for the Islanders: Hamonic wasn’t on the bench to begin the second period.
The Islanders have since provided an update: Hamonic will not return to this game due to an upper-body injury.
Talk about the worst possible start for the New York Islanders.
Trailing the Boston Bruins by four points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders lived through a nightmare to begin Thursday’s game, falling behind the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-0 — before the midway point of the first period.
Dale Weise started the scoring at 4:30 of the first period. By the 9:19 mark, the Flyers opened up a four-goal lead and had already chased Islanders starting goalieThomas Greiss, who allowed three goals on eight shots.
Jaroslav Halak was brought into the game and promptly surrendered a goal to Jordan Weal.
It continued to get worse for the Islanders, who finished the first period trailing by five goals. Shots? They were 19-10 in favor of Philly. Yup. It was bad.
With Josh Ho-Sang in the box serving a double-minor for high sticking, Wayne Simmonds gave Philly a 5-0 lead with his 30th goal of the year.
Shaping up to be a long night for the Islanders.
For the first time since the lockout-shortened season, the Ottawa Senators will not have star defenseman Erik Karlsson in their lineup.
With the Sens four points back of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead, Karlsson will not play tonight versus the Minnesota Wild, which ends his ironman streak at 324 consecutive games played.
Karlsson trails Brent Burns by only five points for the lead in that category among NHL defenseman. He also logs close to 27 minutes of ice time per game. Only three blue liners in the entire league — Dustin Byfuglien, Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter — play more on average per game.
The injury reportedly occurred when Karlsson blocked a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Trade deadline acquisition Jyrki Jokipakka is expected to make his debut for Ottawa, per the Citizen.
“If we miss him for a game or two, we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” forward Mark Stone told the Ottawa Citizen. “He’s the best defenceman in the world. If you take him out of your lineup, it’s obviously a huge blow.”
The Boston Bruins hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they will look to continue their push for the playoffs when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now
NHL on NBCSN: Bruins continue push for playoff spot against Stars
Stars go deeper than rock bottom in Ruff’s ‘worst game’ with team