The Ottawa Senators may have lost some of their toughness to free agency, but they made sure they weren’t going to lose Chris Neil anytime soon when they arrived at a verbal agreement to extended his contract for three more seasons.
The new deal is said to worth $5.75 million, and includes a $200, 000 signing bonus. The paperwork is expected to be signed later on this week.
Neil, 33, who is the Ottawa Senators all-time leader in penalty minutes (1861), is coming off one of his best offensive seasons where he tallied 13 goals and 15 assists, and accumulated 178 minutes in the penalty box.
Much of the credit for his offensive output must be given to the recently departed Zenon Konopka (Minnesota Wild) and Matt Carkner (New York Islanders) who took it upon themselves to help Neil settle scores, and defend teammates last season.
The extra help in the fighting department allowed Neil to focus on his game and use his hands for scoring goals instead of pummeling opponents faces.
Neil is also known as a gritty playoff performer and a ferocious body checker who made a tremendous impact on the club’s series against the New York Rangers including scoring an overtime goal in game two.
This season could turn out much differently for the long-time Ottawa Senators enforcer without the extra muscle, but Zack Smith, Colin Greening and Mark Borowiecki are all expected to lend a helping hand when it comes to duking it out.
Extending Neil is a good move on Bryan Murray’s part as he is an integral part of the team’s leadership group, and even wore the A on his jersey at times last year.
He will be expected to maintain that leadership role and help the team’s younger players transition into life in the NHL smoothly.