This may be a little late, but let me throw my hat into the ring. On Monday the Dallas Stars and the Pittsburgh Penguins made quite a splash, swapping James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski. Being a Stars fan, it was definitely hard to see the Real Deal go and I saw a lot of talk on some blogs and Twitter that the Penguins killed it in this deal. Before we go that far, let’s take a closer look, and what it means for you as a fantasy owner.
My first gut reaction was on the Pensburgh Blog side that the Pens definitely won this one, but after settling in with the fact that I’m not going to be watching Neal anymore, I think this deal benefits both teams in the long term.
Speaking strictly hockey, the Dallas Stars finally got the puck-moving defenseman that they’ve been pining for the past couple of seasons while the Pens finally get that good, young, finishing forward that they’ve always needed. Neal became expendable not only because the Stars have a plethora of left-wingers, but because players like Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn were seen more and more as non-replaceable within the organization. Now as much as I loved Neal, his inconsistency could at times become maddening. His “potential” seemed to have been brought up a lot more than his actual play. With that said, however, I still feel like Neal is a great goal scorer with a hell of a wrist shot that should be able to continue to develop and grow in Pittsburgh on Sidney Crosby’s wing (whenever he comes back).
From what I’ve heard, Goligoski can be a bit of a defensive liability, but there’s no way he can be worse than Niskanen. I feel that Nisky was just a throw-in in this deal instead of a draft pick or a prospect, and this coming from a Stars’ fan, I’m personally glad to see him go. His defensive lapses and constant failure to live up to expectations is finally gone and a burden no more. There were already a few times this season that saw him sitting in the press box during games. I honestly have no idea where Niskanen is going to fit into the Penguins’ plans, but I assume he will be a third pairing d-man for now. This also frees up almost $2.5 million in salary for this season and the next for the cash-strapped Stars, which they can use to get another small deal done or, hopefully, use this money to help re-sign Brad Richards. The deal seems to be a win for the Penguins, but if the Stars can in fact now re-sign B-Rich, than this trade was definitely a win for the Stars as well.
Penguins’ fans were definitely excited to finally get a pure goal-scoring winger to be able to play alongside the young phenom. This deal, however, will look a lot better next year when the Penguins become fully healthy again, getting back both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This trade worked for Pittsburgh because just like the Stars have plenty of wingers, the Pens have plenty of puck moving defensemen. This led to Goligoski becoming expendable.
Fantasy value changes of the parties involved:
Alex Goligoski – I think he will be the biggest winner of the deal for the rest of this season, but not by a whole lot. He will be immediately thrown onto the Stars’ first power-play unit and could see plenty of time, but it’s not like he wasn’t seeing a lot of time in Pittsburgh already. However, now he doesn’t have to sit in the back seat to Kris Letang and will be given tons of opportunity to thrive in Big D. We’ll just have to see if he takes advantage. I could see his +/- going down some, but I’d expect his point totals to go up just bit over his current 0.5 points per game pace.
James Neal – I think he will stay the same, if not actually regress a little bit until Crosby gets back out onto the ice. Playing on Crosby’s wing should be a great fit for him, but it’s not like he was playing for a nobody in Brad Richards, one of the best assist men in the game. Where I do think his numbers can jump up is in the PPP category, as he wasn’t used very extensively on the power play in Dallas.
Now, where Neal’s real value comes in for the Pens is going to be next year and beyond. I think Neal is just the type of player that the Pens were looking for. At only 23 years of age, he has plenty of room to keep growing and hopefully live up to his potential, and with either one of Crosby or Malkin feeding him the puck, I think he will make for a good fit. His keeper value has most likely gone up.
Matt Niskanen – Well, if you are employing Niskanen on your team then you probably aren’t doing so well this season. His fantasy value was pretty minimal, even in keeper leagues, and I think he will stay that way considering the depth that is ahead of him in Pittsburgh.
Values outside the trade:
Jamie Benn – With James Neal out of town, a top-six spot has immediately opened up and I fully expect him to see time on the top line with Eriksson and Richards (once he is back). Benn could actually be the real winner out of all this by the time everything is settled in. I expect not only his short term value, but mostly his long term value to definitely take a rise.
Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley – Now I’ve seen some bloggers say that both of Robidas and Daley’s values will take a big hit with Goligoski in town, but I don’t think it will be as drastic as some believe. When the Stars were fully healthy, Daley and Robidas were splitting the first PP unit on the point next to Brad Richards, but now Goligoski should be moving solely into that slot. However, Daley and Robidas should both see plenty of time on the second PP unit. As Robidas was seeing more PP time than Daley was, I think he will take a slightly bigger hit and his current 0.5 ppg pace should definitely see a dip. As for Daley, he never saw a ton of PP time anyway, so I think his production should stay about the same.
Paul Martin – With the absence of Goligoski, I think Paul Martin will now see a bit more power play and will be given the opportunity to see his production rise for the remainder of the season. That is, if he can successfully fill Goose’s shoes before another young defender swipes in a grabs his spot.
Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis – From what I’ve been hearing with the way the Pens plan on immediately using Neal, Kunitz and Dupuis should definitely take a hit in production. Furthermore, if Neal can mesh with his new team, I’d expect him to come in and swoop away Kunitz’s top unit power play time as well. Next season, Neal will most likely stick on Crosby’s wing while Kunitz has a decent shot of playing on Malkin’s wing. This means that Pascal Dupuis will most likely be relegated down in the depth charts even further. In fact, with the arrival of Neal, highly touted prospect Eric Tangradi’s progress might even get knocked back as well.
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