Amazingly, there was another actual “hockey trade” today in the NHL (as opposed to a salary dump or a swap of a rental player for future considerations).
Dallas shipped power forward James Neal along with defenseman Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for defenseman Alex Goligoski. In the 23-year-old Neal, the Penguins get the young top-six forward they’ve been searching for for a while. In Goligoski, the Stars are hoping they’ve found another “puck-moving defenseman” to build around.
This makes two “hockey deals” in four days, with this trade coming on the heels of the Colorado-St. Louis swap that landed Erik Johnson in Denver last week.
A lot of emails and comments came through to The Bruins Blog today asking if the Bruins could’ve snagged Neal, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound physical specimen who has already scored 21 goals in 59 games this season. A lot of people obviously are in my camp and aren’t as confident in the Bruins’ top six’s ability to get the job done come playoff time.
I see two reasons why this couldn’t have happened.
You start with the fact that Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is obviously content with his top six as it is. He has already said any trade he makes between now and the Feb. 28 deadline will be “minor.” Adding a piece like Neal would not fall into that classification.
The second part is the more important one, which is the Bruins really don’t have an equivalent to Goligoski. Maybe if Johnny Boychuk were having the type of season the team envisioned for him when they re-signed him last summer, he would be a comparable. But if Boychuk were playing that well, the Bruins wouldn’t want to trade him anyway.
Just like acquiring Johnson, picking up a young veteran like Neal would’ve required Chiarelli to really go out on a limb and tamper with his top six forwards or top four on defense. That’s not in Chiarelli’s blueprint, even to acquire productive youngsters who are under contract beyond this season.
Chiarelli’s main goal was to supplement his club with as little tampering done to the team he built over the summer as possible. He decided to go the rental route with Tomas Kaberle and add to his bottom six up front with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. We’ll know by May if his moves were enough.