James Neal and Matt Niskanen return to Dallas for just the second time since being traded to Pittsburgh in February 2011. For Neal, he’s evolved into one of the premier goal scorers in the game but Niskanen’s career turnaround has been a complete 180 in Pittsburgh.
Niskanen has gone from a “throw in” in the trade due to the Stars needing to move salary to likely being among the most coveted defensemen this summer and seeing his salary jump to at least $4.5 million per season on the open market.
“It’s been a couple years,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “James Neal came in and scored one goal and two if you include his one in the playoffs in his first half a year there and getting Matt Niskanen, kind of a throw-in,” Bylsma said. “The perception of being a throw-in in the deal and now you’re looking at guys who are a 40-goal scorer and Matt Niskanen, who is leading the league in a couple of categories for defensemen with game-winning goals, plus/minus. The season that he’s had and what he’s been to our team it’s two high performers for our team. I always watch the Dallas Stars to watch Alex Goligoski play and certainly been a good player, but to get those two guys in that deal was huge for us.”
The best way to evaluate a trade is that who ever receives the “best player” in the deal, normally wins the trade. For Pittsburgh’s case, they also received the second best player in the trade.
Nearly three years later, the better player now between Alex Goligoski and Matt Niskanen is Matt Niskanen. Goligoski has 2 goals and 21 points and minus-4 rating in 50 games this season. Niskanen has 7 goals and 30 points a plus-29 rating on the season and is the more complete defenseman among the two.