So the Penguins traded their No. 5 defenseman for a young winger with the potential to score 30 goals or more?

This is a bad thing?

Are you kidding me?

It's no surprise Penguins general manager Ray Shero didn't wait until the trade deadline Monday to make his big move to make the team better. Taking advantage of the Dallas Stars' apparent willingness to dump a little salary, he jumped at the chance to acquire promising forward James Neal and young defenseman Matt Niskanen for defenseman Alex Goligoski Monday afternoon. "This is the hockey trade that we've been looking for," Shero said.

No wonder.

It makes the Penguins better now, next season and beyond.

I know the argument against it. Defense and goaltending have been the Penguins' strengths, especially since centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were lost with injuries. Why break up a good thing? Why risk hurting one of the areas that gives the team its best chance to be successful in the playoffs?

Sorry, I'm not buying it.

For one thing, you have to give something to get something. Teams aren't in the habit of giving away young power forwards. "Neal, on our list, is one of the better ones," Shero said. "He becomes part of our core group going forward. He's a top-six forward with the potential to become a top-three."

For another, Goligoski was expendable. The organizational depth on defense is significant. Paul Martin, who missed the game Monday night against the Washington Capitals with what's believed to be a minor injury, should take Goligoski's spot on the top power-play unit. Niskanen, 24, who had two strong seasons before slumping last season and this one because of what Shero described as a possible "confidence thing," could step into Goligoski's even-strength spot.

"A change [of teams] might help him get back to where he was," Shero said.

Young guys Ben Lovejoy, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo will be waiting should Niskanen struggle. Down the road, former No. 1 pick Simon Despres, 19 -- the jewel in the system -- is coming.

Shero admitted it was tough for coach Dan Bylsma "to wrap his arms around" the trade. "He really likes Alex." But there's no reason the Penguins shouldn't be just as strong defensively without Goligoski. And they still have goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. His role hasn't changed. He has to play spectacular hockey for the team to have a chance to go deep in the playoffs, especially if Crosby doesn't play again this season because of his concussion.