If there’s something that the Blues love, it’s a hard-nosed veteran presence. If there’s something else that the Blues love, it’s a good professional tryout opportunity. Those two rivers converged this pre-season in the form of James Neal, a former 30 goal scorer who has proven that he still has gas left in the tank.
Neal has 294 goals and 555 points in 850 NHL games played between the team that drafted him, the Dallas Stars, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Nashville Predators, the Vegas Golden Knights, the Calgary Flames, and most recently, the Edmonton Oilers. The journeyman left wing impressed right off of the bat in pre-season play, leading the team with four goals in five pre-season games.
Neal’s signing is not a surprise, as he fills a need that the Blues have lacked for the past couple of seasons. He, along with another newcomer, Brandon Saad, is not afraid to get to rough areas and to rush the net to create scoring chances and plays. His 6’3’, 212 lb frame should make life a bit more difficult for the opposition’s defensemen around the crease.
Neal’s one-year contract is a reasonable one at $750,000. It will limit younger players, such as Klim Kostin, who now will probably have to wait for an injury to crack the roster. It is difficult to ignore how well Neal’s played this pre-season and how he fits the mold of a Craig Berube player, so a one year deal for Neal was not completely unexpected.