Before the euphoria created by the Pirates trading for A.J. Burnett could be savored, the Penguins stole some thunder and signed James Neal to a six-year, $30 million contract extension.

If you’re a PNC Park customer who doesn’t follow hockey, the Peguins have what is known in sports as “a realistic chance to win.”

That’s win championships. Not win more games than they lose.

If the  NHL hadn’t installed a salary cap, Neal would be trying to decide if he wanted to play in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston or Toronto after he escsaped from Pittsburgh

This is a great lesson for Pirates apologists who insist that the lack of a salary cap is not the Pirates’ biggest problem.

Neal is the hockey equivalent of  a home run hitter and he’s going to hit a lot of homeruns for the Penguins playing on a line with Geno Malkin and/or Sidney Crosby.

He will play a major role in the Penguins making deep playoff runs.

A.J. Burnett is a mediocre, 35 year-old pitcher who is going to have zero effect on whether the Pirates make the post season.

If the Penguins wanted to be mean, they could put up billboards with side-by-side pictures of Neal and Burnett with th caption: “The Difference Between Being a Pirates Fan and a Penguins Fan.”



  • RJG

    Except no one would have recognized Neal because Hockey is a dead sport.

    • John Steigerwald

      To you maybe.

  • Rob

    Just wait until Donald Fehr undues that salary cap….aghh

  • Shawn

    I was one of many fans Penguins fans who had been clamoring for years for the Penguins to get a goal scoring winger to play with Crosby. They almost did with Hossa, but we all know how that worked out; then Crosby’s health issues began. But the point is Neal’s that winger we all wanted, and the Penguins didn’t mess around when they got their man.

    This is one more feather in Ray Shero’s cap too. I don’t think we should lose sight of what a great job he does for the Penguins. He’s made a number of shrewd moves that continually work out in the Penguins favor. When that Hossa deal was made the consensus seemed to be that is was a good move for the Penguins (because they got the best player in the deal) but they gave up a lot. Turns out that wasn’t really the case.

    Eric Christensen’s bounced all over the league since then; Angelo Esposito is fragile and a bust; Colby Armstrong is a dime-a-dozen grinder; and that 1st round pick they gave to Atlanta turned into Daultan Leveille. (Yeah, I don’t know who he is either.) In retrospect, even if the deal had just been for Pascal Dupuis the Penguins would’ve still made out.

    I remember when the Goligoski-Neal/Niskanen deal was made columnist Adam Proteau said, ” THIS IS AN ALL-POINTS BULLETIN FOR REJEAN “RAY” SHERO, 48, OF PITTSBURGH. WANTED BY TEXAS AUTHORITIES FOR GRAND LARCENY. UNARMED & DANGEROUS.” Goligoski is a good offensive minded defenseman but it does look like the Stars got robbed in that deal.

    • Meathead

      Getting robbed? That’s hockey. The Stars in a former life gave the Penguins a Stanley Cup when they handed them Larry Murphy and Peter Taglianetti for two (much) inferior defenseman.

  • ISteve Roissy

    Mr. Ray Shero

  • Meathead

    The difference between James Neal and AJ Burnett is that James Neal was already on the team.

    Whatever happened to Paul Gardner?

    • John Steigerwald

      He lived in Pittsburgh for a while after he retired. I think he’s coaching somewhere. I used to play golf with him a lot when we were both memebers of the same country club. Good guy.

      • franji1

        from his wikipedia page:

        On September 13, 2011 Gardner was named head coach of the Bloomington (IL) Blaze hockey club of the CHL.

        • John Steigerwald

          Good. Thanks.

    • John Steigerwald

      That’s one difference. The biggest one is that Neal is 24 and looks like a future star. Burnett is 35 and looking like a former star.

    • Ken

      Paul Gardner, haven’t heard that name for a while.

      Nice goal scorer. Victim of probably the worst cheap shot of all time. Remember that Jimmy Mann (Winnipeg) sucker punch? He just decked Gardner with a roundhouse punch while he wasn’t looking. Mann shouldn’t have been suspended, he should have been jailed.

      • John Steigerwald

        Remember it well. Gasrdner had a face like a boxer.

  • Matt

    It’s only been one season, but if he keeps playing the way he is, it will be a bargain.

  • pghfrftr

    I agree that this is a very good signing, and am happy James Neal will be around longer. He is a good hockey player, and seems to be a good person. But, as a team, if they don’t pay more attention to their defensive responsibilities, all over the ice, there will no long playoff runs. MAF is keeping them in these games lately. Their attention to their own defensive responsibilities, and their puck control is terrible. Hopefully it’s just the typical “long season attention spans”, and gets better soon. Of course, it would suck to be a Flyers fan these days with their goaltending!!