Hard to figure why the Dallas Stars wanted Alex Goligoski so badly that they were prepared to give up one of the top emerging power forwards in the game, James Neal, to get him, along with a serviceable defenceman in Matt Niskanen.
Presumably, it's because Dallas lacks scoring from the back end and decided, as defencemen were moving left and right, they needed to jump into the action with both feet.
Stephane Robidas is their top point-producing defencemen, and at last check, he was not in the top 30 among NHL rearguards. They haven't really had anyone back there since Sergei Zubov returned from Russia, but they gave up a lot to fill that hole. With Jamie Benn there, and Jamie Langenbrunner, who'd recently arrived from New Jersey, the Stars must have felt they could give up Neal.
The deal does lighten the salary load, but it comes at the expense of a player who has been a nice fit with Brad Richards for more than a year now. Maybe it's a way of freeing up money to sign Richards, or maybe it's a sign that the centre isn't coming back. So much of what Dallas does hinges upon the payroll - with the team operating without an official owner - and until that gets settled, you probably cannot get a true read on what general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is up to.
Officially, Nieuwendyk called Goligoski "a legitimate top-four defenseman who will have a positive impact on our entire crops of blue-liners. He has averaged over 20 minutes per game and can play in all situations."
Still, the cost was high - and the good news from the Penguins' perspective is that once Sidney Crosby returns, he may finally have a winger to play with. Neal has a little bit of Bill Guerin in him. He is primarily a finisher, and on a Pittsburgh team that is woefully weak on the wing, he will be a welcome addition.
Dallas also dealt away youth in this deal. Neal, at 23, was Dallas' second round selection (33rd overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He has appeared in 59 games for the Stars this season, scoring 21 goals and 18 assists for 39 points. Niskanen, at 24, has appeared in 45 games for Dallas this season, recording six assists with 30 penalty minutes. He was Dallas' first round pick (28th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Looks like a win for Penguins' general manager Ray Shero.