The Blues announced today that veteran forward James Neal has been placed on waivers.
James Neal (STL) on waivers— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 2, 2022
Neal was signed after training camp in October to a one year deal worth $750,000 thanks to an impressive PTO period. In 17 games played with the Blues this season, most of which were on the fourth line, Neal posted two goals and two assist. He then landed on the injured reserve in late November, after injuring himself in practice before the Blues’ game in Detroit. On top if that, he was then placed on the Covid-19 protocol list in late December.
Neal was activated from both in time to participate in the Winter Classic festivities this weekend in Minneapolis. The Blues were kind enough to hold off on the waiver move until today.
Neal’s tenure with the Blues wasn’t exactly cut short by injuries and Covid-19, but those two things played a major part. As injuries to players mounted through November and December, the Blues were forced to call up players from the Springfield Thunderbirds to fill in, and they’ve all done admirable jobs. Dakota Joshua and Nathan Walker are both on the Blues’ taxi squad now, as players have returned, but Logan Brown remains with the NHL club. Brown’s skill and age make him a natural replacement for Neal. In 12 games played, he has three goals and three assists, and almost picked up another goal last night. Brown is a similar cap hit to Neal with more current skill, and while currently on the team’s third line with Tyler Bozak and Pavel Buchnevich, he’s been moved around the lineup - including getting top-line minutes.
Neal clearing waivers is not a sure-fire thing. He still has gas in the tank and could be a valuable acquisition for a club who needs veteran players. In the case of the Montreal Canadiens, they could use an NHL caliber player of any age on their roster as it stands right now.