Penguins Deal Neal – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Deal Neal

It didn’t take long for new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford to swing his first high-impact trade. On June 27 he pulled off a classic two-fer, shipping All-Star right wing James Neal to Nashville for right wing Patric Hornqvist and left wing Nick Spaling.

pp0491The deal signals a significant shift in the Pens’ paradigm. “We wanted to change the mix of the team,” Rutherford said.

It also ends of the stay of one of the most productive—and enigmatic—performers in black-and-gold history. Possessing a lightning-quick release, Neal blossomed into a deadly scorer while skating alongside Evgeni Malkin. “The Real Deal” exploded for 40 goals (including a league-high 18 on the power-play) in 2011-12. He overcame injuries and the lockout to produce at a similar pace the past two seasons.

The Whitby, Ontario native had his shortcomings, too. A streaky scorer, Neal was a poster child for wildly undisciplined play. Rather than use his good size to create chances, he often preferred to cruise between the circles while awaiting a setup. Nor was he especially good away from the puck.

On the plus side, the imports from the Music City figure to spice up a mix that has grown decidedly stale. Hornqvist topped 20 goals four times while skating for the defensive-minded Predators, including a career-best 30 in 2009-10 and 22 last season. A versatile third-liner who bangs and kills penalties, the 25-year-old Spaling popped in 13 goals in 2013-14.

“We like Hornqvist as an all-around player,” Rutherford said. “We really like Spaling. He can play all three positions on the third line.”

In particular, Hornqvist could be a crease-crashing revelation. Early in his career the 27-year-old Swede drew comparisons to countryman Tomas Holmstrom, the rugged former Red Wing who spent his career virtually stapled to opposing goalies. Aside from Chris Kunitz, the Pens are sadly lacking in net-front jam.

“Hornqvist plays with an edge,” Rutherford said. “Goes to the net, works the corners.”

Expect the reconstruction to continue when free agency begins on July 1. Nikolai Kulemin, a close friend of Malkin’s and former 30-goal scorer with Toronto, is rumored to be on the Pens’ radar. According to Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Rutherford plans to pursue four players—all forwards.

Stay tuned.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    December 31, 2015 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    It was a bad move then. Still a bad move now. Neal is killing it with the Predators. Did and Geno were non factors in the playoffs. Kunitz and Dupius in there late 30s. Rutherford is a joke of a GM. Trading Neal and leaving Niskanen go. If he got a so called plan it didn’t work or it was garbage to begin with. We got Hornqvist,Kessel, and Perron. None of them are producing like Neal is for the Preds. Also why does Sid get to keep his wings and Malkin has to play with 7 or 8 different wings in 2 yrs. Malkin and Neal had awesome chemistry. Neal’s contract was 5million a yr. Very cap friendly. Hornqvist is a good player but not on Neal’s level. Very bad trade and were still paying for it because of a GM who should of never even been considered. Ray Shero being fired was a poor move as well.

  2. Pen's 4ever's Gravatar Pen's 4ever
    July 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    It was tough to see Neal go..I really liked him and I know it wasn’t all Dan’s fault in the playoff loses, just very frustrating to see one of my favs go and guys like Scuds and Dupuis and Letang get to stay and under perform

  3. Pen's 4ever's Gravatar Pen's 4ever
    June 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Dan was a Playoff failure, he won the cup with Therrien’s system, did not make in game adjustments and didn’t seem to rev up or get the most out of some of the players.
    I don’t like the NEal deal but I know his play was very poor at times, but what about Scuds? and Letang and Dupuis none of those guys played at al lgood

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 30, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Hey Pen’s 4ever,

      I know it’s tough to watch the team being dismantled. But I think we have to be patient and see how the reconstruction plays out. So far, I like what I see.

      Rutherford has a plan and he’s committed to making changes. He’s also determined to alter the vibe in the locker room, which you could sense wasn’t good just from watching the Pens play. A shake-up of some type definitely is needed.

      You asked the million-dollar question. Or, I should say, the $10.125 million-dollar question, which is how much Rob Scuderi has remaining on his contract. What to do about “Scuds”?

      Best-case scenario: Scuderi recovers sufficiently from last season’s ankle injury to serve as an on-ice mentor for the team’s young defensemen. Worst-case scenario: I don’t even want to think about it …

  4. June 29, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick, I like the move. Anyone who believed Bylsma was a playoff failure must realize there were players that also had the inability to perform under pressure. James Neal was the apotheosis of all that could go wrong in the playoffs. His failure to score along with his ability to perform an incredibly stupid act at the utmost wrong time was uncanny.

    I believe that Hornqvist like James Neal will prosper from what I like to call the Rob Brown effect, and I don’t mean losing his hair!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 30, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      I like the trade, too.

      It’s tough to part with a pure goal scorer like Neal. After all, those guys don’t grow on trees. While I don’t think Neal was quite the colossal playoff bust everyone makes him out to be (about a 24-goal pace over a regular season) I thought he’d become increasingly one-dimensional. If he wasn’t scoring goals, he wasn’t doing much else to help the team.

      I don’t know a whole lot about Spaling, other than what I’ve read. But he sounds like a solid third-liner who’ll score in double-digits, which we desperately need.

      I think Hornqvist could be a gem. He’s very effective in traffic and has a real nose for the net. He was averaging 20-plus goals a year in Nashville with virtually no help. Imagine what he can do playing with Sid or Geno. Or, as you so aptly put it, the “Rob Brown effect” … 🙂


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