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.”