The Calgary Flames had a very significant free agent signing on Monday when they inked James Neal of Whitby, Ontario to a five year deal worth $25.75 million. Neal had 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 points on a surprising Vegas Golden Knights team last year that shocked the sports world by advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In fact, Neal has been to the Stanley Cup Finals the last two seasons. In 2016-17, he was with the Nashville Predators who reached the Stanley Cup Finals, before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Neal knows the Penguins well. He was with the Penguins for four straight years from 2011-2014, before they won their back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
It should be noted that Neal has made the playoffs in each of the last eight seasons with Pittsburgh, Nashville and Vegas. The Flames are Neal’s fifth NHL team as he played his first three NHL seasons with the Dallas Stars.
One thing Neal has been throughout his career is Mike Gartner-like consistent. He has scored 20 or more goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons.
Now Flames fans will wonder how long Neal will be able to keep the 20+ goals per season and playoff streak going. One should not ignore the fact that Neal is now 30 years of age, and signed a five year deal with Calgary.
There is also another statistic about Neal last season that is glaring. Yes, he did have 44 points. However, he was not in the top five in Golden Knights scoring, as he had fewer points than William Karlsson, Jon Marchessault, David Perron of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Reilly Smith of Mimico, Ontario and Erik Haula. It should also be worth noting that Neal did win a gold medal for Canada at the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championship in Leksand, Sweden. But in six games, Neal was unable to record a point.