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Insider Only Trade Analysis: Breaking down what the additions of Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling mean for Penguins

For a team looking to shakeup a “bad room”, the Pittsburgh Penguins trade of James Neal was far from a shock. Bottom-line, James Neal was primarily moved more for “behavioral reasons,” as one source put it and the organization coming to the decision that they had to change the culture of the team.
The Penguins sent the 26 year old Neal to the Nashville Predators in exchange for forwards Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist.
“We feel he is a No. 1 line winger, we feel he is a goal scorer, and that’s exactly what we were looking for,” Predators general manager David Poile told reporters at the draft about Neal.
For the Penguins, they ship out one of the premier goal scorers in the game for two forwards who they feel make them a more balanced team and will add more character to the room.
“We were just trying to change the mix of our team and get a little different type of player,” Jim Rutherford told reporters at the draft.
Pittsburgh had other trade opportunities for Neal, including a proposal from the Colorado Avalanche that would have sent PA Pareanteau and a first round pick to Pittsburgh, a high ranking official says.
“We talked to about 15 teams, those calls were mostly initiated by them. I had a few offers to consider,” Rutherford said. “We got here tonight and met {with Nashville} before the draft and decided we were going to do it.”
Among feedback on the trade from those around the league, one consensus is the Penguins did well in adding character guys who give maximum effort on a game by game basis but there was lots of surprise a high draft pick, notably one of the Predators second round picks (No. 42 or No. 46) didn’t come the Penguins way.
One scout felt the Penguins are overvaluing Nick Spaling a bit too much with the return landing the Penguins no high or mid-round draft choices. Pittsburgh does not draft again until the fourth round (No. 113).
In Hornqvist, 5-11, 189, the Penguins have gotten smaller in replacing Neal, but are adding a different kind of player who gets to the dirty areas and can impact a game in other ways. “Pays the price to score goals,” A western conference scout said via text message. “Relentless, disruptive in front of the net”
GM Jim Rutherford feels Hornqvist will be a good asset for the playoffs.
““Hornqvist plays at the net, goes to the net, works the corners,” Rutherford said. “We like Hornqvist a lot. We think he’s a complete player, an all-around player, a player that plays with an edge. He’ll be good in the playoffs.”

Hornqvist is not the type of player where playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is likely to make him a 40 goal scorer as one feeling on him is he’s probably maxed out at 30-32 goals, but he should be a consistent high 20’s goal scorer.
In Spaling the Penguins get a player they really like who they feel will solidify the third line with Brandon Sutter. “Character, good dressing room guy,” Rutherford said. “He’s also a player that can play all three forward positions. So if one of our centers gets hurt he can just slide in there, very versatile player. I think he’s very important to this deal.”
Still, it remains to be seen if Spaling will be that much of an upgrade over lets say Jason Megna when the Penguins and Spaling, a restricted free agent, reach a new deal. His $1.5 million qualifying offer carries over to Pittsburgh.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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