The Pens just signed a two-year deal with defenseman Matt Niskanen at $2.3 million per year. Nisky came to Pittsburgh packaged with James Neal in exchange for d-man Alex Goligoski near the trade deadline in the 2010-2011 season. At the time, Neal looked like the reason that Dallas got completely fleeced on the deal, but as Niskanen got comfortable with the Pens system, it became apparent that the deal was ridiculous over all. Pens GM Ray Shero pulled one over on Dallas, big time.
Even prior to Neal’s 40 goals and Niskanen’s best season to date, this is what NHL 11 had to say of the trade:
Niskanen, a first round draft pick in 2005, played fairly inconsistently in Dallas and didn’t look much better when he first came to Pittsburgh, taking stupid penalties and making poor choices. But when the Pens hit the pre-season in 2011-2012, Niskanen looked like a whole new player and it wasn’t a fluke. One of the Pens best blue-liners, blocking shots, scoring three power play goals, and ending the regular season at +9, Niskanen was someone the Pens knew what to expect from on any given night.
The Niskanen deal probably hampers rumors that the Pens are going after Ryan Suter. With the Pens defensive depth, the landscape of the Pens blue-line will be vastly different inside of two seasons. With Simon Despres, Joe Morrow, Scott Harrington, and now Brian Dumoulin (as well as our two first-round draft picks from this year), the Pens have a nice problem going forward. While still in need of a big body to put in front of the net, good things are coming to the Pens as Shero rounds out the issue of stopping goals.