Chris Neil, RW, Contract: 2.0/13 (1.9/16 UFA) 6-161/98 (Gauthier)
6’1, Shoots R, YOB 1979, Flesherton, Ont
2008-09 NHL Ott 60-3-7-10 (ppg 0.16) -13 146pim (14 fights) TOI 10:58
2009-10 NHL Ott 68-10-12-22 (ppg 0.32) -1 175pim (13 fights) TOI 11:58
2010-11 NHL Ott 80-6-10-16 (ppg 0.20) -14 210pim (12 fights) TOI 12:45
2011-12 NHL Ott 72-13-15-28 (ppg 0.39) -10 178pim (10 fights) TOI 12:47
At this stage of his career Chris Neil‘s seasons have been up and down. Three years ago, in his contract year, Neil had a disappointing injury-plagued season. Despite that, Bryan Murray re-signed him to his current four-year deal, having faith that it was an aberration. Neil responded well the following year, scoring 10 goals for only the fourth time in his career, then struggled along with the rest of the Senators the following season posting the worst plus/minus numbers of his career. All the indicators at the time were heading south and there wasn’t much change in his game late in the season when the Senators were playing better (he was part of trade rumours heading into the deadline, and he was also critical of his teammates during the year.
This past season Neil rebounded with his best season (offensively) since 06-07 and provided his usual gritty play. On the down side he led the team by far as a minus (the next regulars were -4) and he hasn’t been a plus player since 06-07. As a veteran, there’s no excuse for that and I expect him to improve on his defensive play.
Neil is one of the best middle-weight fighters in the game, although he has been fighting less and less but he remains a feared hitter. Like any physical player I wonder about his long term future, but I had no issue with the deal he signed this off-season that should see him end his career as a Senator. Last year I expected him to produce 20 points and I think that’s reasonable to assume for the upcoming season as well.