James Neal

Dallas trades James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski


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.

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…