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Penguins trade Goligoski to Stars for Neal, Niskanen - 02-21-11

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The Penguins have traded defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Stars in exchange for forward James Neal  (above) and defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Neal, 23, has played in 59 games this season and has scored 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists). A second-round pick in 2005, Neal, (6-foot-2, 208 pounds)  has played in 214 regular season games for the Stars and has scored 131 points. He has reached the 20-goal mark in each of his first three NHL seasons. He is signed through 2011-12 and has a salary cap hit of $2.875 million. He will be a restricted free agent when the contract expires.

Niskanen (right), 24, has played in 45 games this season has has recorded six assists. A first-round pick in 2005, Niskanen has appeared in 277 career games and has scored 82 points. Niskanen (6-foot-0, 200 pounds) has appeared in 16 career playoff games and has three assists. He is signed through the 2011-12 season and has a salary cap hit of $1.5 million. He will be a restricted free agent when the contract expires.

Goligoski, 25, has appeared in 60 games this season and has scored 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists). He leads the team with a plus-20. A second-round pick in 2004, Goligoski played in 177 career regular season games with the Penguins and scored 90 points. In 15 career postseason games, Goligoski (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) scored 10 points. He is signed through the 2011-12 season and has a salary cap hit of $1.833 million. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent when the contract expires. Goligoski was a member of the 2009 Stanley Cup championship team.

Penguins fans might remember Niskanen from a fight he had with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby Nov. 3:

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EN Says: We love this trade for the Penguins. First and foremost, the Penguins something they have sought for quite a while in a young, top-six winger in Neal. Additionally, they get a defenseman back with potential to be a top four blue liner. And these aren't rental players for a playoff run, both of these players are in position to be members of the Penguins for several seasons. Also, both are younger than Goligoski.

And while losing Goligoski is hardly insignificant, he's hardly irreplaceable in the short- or long-term given the Penguins organizational depth at the position.

First Neal. This is essentially the type of player the Penguins have been looking for since... forever. He's a top-six winger. He brings a mix of scoring ability, a good shot, toughness and a willingness to go to the high traffic areas despite average size. In other words, he'll fit in on a Dan Bylsma team very well. This is a guy you can expect to clean up second-chance rebounds.

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Neal isn't afraid to lay out a hit either:

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He will drop the gloves from time to time:

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Niskanen is an athletic skater with offensive upside but has struggled with consistency, particularly on defense. He has missed nine games this season due to various hand ailments. He has averaged 15:44 of ice time this season, 2:07 of it has been on the power play but only 0:14 of the penalty kill.

Goligoski is still a player with tremendous upside. His offensive skills are without question. He's a smooth skater and an excellent puck handler. He is still prone to mistakes and can get a little too aggressive at times, but appeared to cut down on those mistakes in recent months. While the power play was hardly excellent for the Penguins, he was a vital member of that special teams unit. Defensively, he was limited due to his small size, but he was hardly a liablity in his own end.

Ultimately, Goligoski (right) never reached his potential with the Penguins, but he showed flashes. Presumably, with more chances in Dallas, he will reach his ceiling.

In the short-term, the Penguins can make up for his loss with Niskanen or even one of the AHL "tweeners" they have such as Andrew Hutchinson or Steve Wagner. In the long-term, they have players such as Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait waiting in the wings.

-According to the Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika, both teams appeared to deal from areas of strenght to address areas of weakness.

(Photo: Neal-Doug Pensinger/Getty Images; Niskanen-Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images; Goligoski-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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