Ahhhhh, yes. Trade Deadline time. Let's fire up this crazy thing.
But first, some thoughts on the newest piece of The Core…
Six years, $30 million total. A cap hit of $5 million per year. Money-wise, Neal's contract pretty much puts him in the same financial ballpark as Bobby Ryan of the Ducks. It gives the Pens the most productive scoring winger the team has had since Alexei Kovalev was playing on a line with Marty Straka and Robert Lang.
Six years ties the longest deal that Shero has awarded to a skater since becoming the General Manager of the Penguins (Brooks Orpik is in the 4th year of a six-year deal, and Marc-Andre Fleury is in the midst of a seven-year deal that expires after the 2014-15 season).
The best thing about this deal? SIX MOAR YEARS OF "THE REEEEEALLLLL DEEEEEAAALLL" REFERENCES, AMIRITE?
Neal gave up three years of potential unrestricted free agency to remain with the Penguins. Neal would have qualified for unrestricted free agent status after the 2014-15 season. He could have very easily stayed on with the Pens for just three more years, then headed into the summer of 2015 an unrestricted free agent at the age of 27. Assuming he would've banked a couple of more solid seasons, he would've cashed in big-time in 2015, especially since he would still be on the good side of 30.
Instead, he's here for six. If he continues to trend up in his performance or even remain mostly at this current pace (41-42 goals, 79-80 points) over the next few years, this is a huge bargain for the Pens.
TRADE DEADLINE SURVIVAL GUIDE
If you can take the day off, take the day off. Like you'll be any good at your desk, anyway. Beer, pizza, couch, laptop and NHL Network. You're set.
If you're following Deadline Day activities on Twitter, beware of fake media accounts, particularly of TSN personalities. If you see something like "TSNBubMcKenzie" (that was a fake one last year) retweet that Rick Nash is coming to the Pens for Paul Martin and Eric Tangradi, check before you retweet to all your pals whether "TSNBubMcKenzie" only has about 40 followers and 20 tweets. What a sweet segue…
If you're following Deadline Day on Twitter and you're NOT following the legitimate Bob McKenzie, do so. He's at @TSNBobMcKenzie. If he doesn't confirm the trade, it didn't happen.
It won't be the end of the world if Shero doesn't make a splash. That's not to say the Pens don't make a trade or two; there are some things that need to be shored up with this team. They could use a more physical presence in front of Fleury, and there's talk of adding a veteran center who can win faceoffs. If a deal presents itself, they may take a run at a low-risk veteran winger who can put the puck in the net, kind of like what Bill Guerin was in 2009.
Don't panic if Philly or the Rangers acquire Rick Nash. The Flyers' real problems lie at goaltender and on defense. Nash would make the Rangers a more dangerous offensive team, but more than likely at the direct expense of their defense, which is a little bit top-heavy.
Eric Tangradi was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday. more than likely to add depth in the event that someone (Matt Cooke, perhaps) was injured and may not be able to go against the Rangers. There was some discussion that he may have been recalled to be showcased for a trade. The Pens don't really have that luxury, given their spot in the playoff race. Teams who are interested in Tangradi know what to expect from him by now.
There are 23 games left in the regular season. If the Pens think they can trust Brent Johnson to go start-to-finish in seven or eight of those games, there's probably no need to look into making a change to another backup goalie.
Watched the Capitals get absolutely worked over by the Hurricanes on NBC Sports Network's Monday night game. Does Dale Hunter always look like he has no idea where his is when he's on the bench?
Strange, in a sense, to see what has become of the Caps. They're currently 10th in the East with 63 points, one back of the Jets and Maple Leafs. There's still a lot of time left, so it's far too early to write them off (it was about this time three years ago that the Pens were 10th in the East when Dan Bylsma took over). But for a team that set the hockey world abuzz just a few years ago, this team just seems like a shell of itself. It's like most of that fire that they used to have is gone.
I know they're missing Backstrom and that doesn't help, but this goes beyond personnel. As much as they drove us crazy, that team played with a fire and presence that could sometimes be intimidating to watch at times. How many times a few years ago would you get nervous and move to the edge of your seat watching them go on the attack? Whatever that was, it's not there now, and you can see it with just about every player on that team, all the way up to Ovechkin. Not sure there's a team in the league that looks more disinterested as often as they do and plays like less of a "team".
Crosby has been out of action for nearly a season and a half. Ovechkin is on the verge of playing his way out of the NHL's top 50 scorers this season. Suffice it to say, three or four years ago, this isn't how the NHL envisioned things going.
It makes this commercial seem like a hundred years ago.