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Blues sign veteran forward James Neal to one-year deal

Pro Hockey Rumors
Pro Hockey Rumors
 2021-10-09
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James Neal. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It was a successful tryout for winger James Neal in St. Louis as the Blues announced that they’ve inked the veteran to a one-year contract. The deal is worth the league minimum of $750K.

In his prime, the 34-year-old was one of the more consistent scorers in the NHL, scoring more than 20 goals in ten straight seasons. However, as he has gotten older, his production has started to slow down. He had a bounce-back year in 2019-20 in Edmonton with 19 goals in 55 games but he wasn’t able to maintain that same level of production last season. Instead, he had just five goals and five assists in 29 games while clearing waivers and spending time on the taxi squad. Rather than keep him on their roster for the remaining two years of his contract, the Oilers decided to buy him out, paying him $1.916M over each of the next four years for him to go elsewhere.

After being unable to secure a guaranteed contract in free agency, Neal accepted a professional tryout offer from the Blues, who have a need for some cheap role players given their salary cap situation. He made the most of his exhibition action, scoring a team-high four goals in five games.

While his best days are behind him now, Neal represents a low-risk pickup for St. Louis. If he’s able to contribute some offense in the bottom six, they’ll be content with that and if he winds up struggling, they can send him to the minors (he’d have to clear waivers first) and clear the entire cap hit off their books. Neal sits six goals away from 300 for his NHL career and he should have a chance to get to that milestone at some point this season.

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