I figured we would make at least one move, though as far as what that move would be I was at a loss. We all know the blueline is our weak point and our forward depth is our strength; so the clear need is there.
The move saw Neal and Niskanen traded to the Penguins for young offensive defensemen Alex Goligoski. I’ve watched this kid play, he is a bonafied O-Dman. “Puck moving” is not always the same as “offensive”; we see that with guys like Robidas and Daley. They can skate and move the puck, but they are our highest scoring defensemen and their points are mediocre to say the least. With Letang showing he is the real deal in Pits. they had room to move Goligoski out for some depth up front that they are missing with both Crosby and Malkin out of the line-up.
The only legitimate argument against the trade at this point could be made that giving both Neal AND Nisky away for Alex was a bit much. I wouldn’t disagree. However, the argument that this isn’t an upgrade is not legitimate at this point. Neal is probably a 25 goal scorer for most of his career. That 30+ mark eludes him and without Richards its an even bigger stretch. Goligoski has huge potential and if you’ve watched him for long stints (especially during the playoffs) then you know how good the kid is. He also patches holes in other areas, such as the powerplay and offers a real second-threat from the blueline on the man advantage.
This takes the pressure off of some of our defensemen to do too much.
I think the other problem is the injury situation right now. It does shwo that Joe has confidence in his ability to sign Richards as well as in his team making the playoffs this year despite this slump. They need scoring with all of these important forwards out of the line-up, the good news is that maybe their d-corp can chip in now.
This also means there is a spot open on the left wing on the top line. Since Ribeiro/Morrow are a lock for a duo, that leaves Langenbrunner or Benn as legitimate contention. I don’t think anyone really things Jamie L. is a first line forward, but I think Benn could be a 40-goal scorer on a line with Richards. If nothing else he scores as many as James Neal. This leaves a spot open for someone like Vincour to take a permanent place on the roster on the third or fourth line or room for another potential move.
You have to think about the future and with a blueline with Daley, Goligoski and Larsen; you can’t help but smile at the possibilities.
This is an upgrade, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Whether or not it was worth what we gave for Alex… that’s another story.