Chris Neil is one heck of a polarizing player. You love him, or you hate him. If you love him, chances are 99% that you are an Ottawa Senators fan. It does not work both ways however. I sure wouldn't say 99% of Ottawa fans love Chris Neil.
Neil is a player with over 2000 career penalty minutes, yet has never been suspended. There were times (many if you are a Sabres fan) that he got a little too close to the line, but the fact is, as an agitator, fighter and general shift-disturber, to have never been suspended is an impressive feat. This is especially true if you have played nearly 800 games that way.
One thing that not one person can deny about Chris Neil is that he bleeds Senator red, black and gold. Never has the team had a player more willing to shed blood and sweat for the Centurion logo, and he has played his entire career with passion. That passion sometimes boils over, and causes Neil to fight teammates in practice, but it just shows you how much he cares.
I was not always a Chris Neil fan. I thought he was entirely undeserving of his last contract. But something has happened in the last two years. The old Chris Neil has awoken. He was identified as a leader and he has embraced that veteran's role on a very young team. This past season, he contributed 13 goals and 28 points, not to mention leading the team in the physical aspects of the game. This past year, he certainly lived up to his contract.
Him taking a pay cut is another way of showing Ottawa fans how much he cares. With the way salaries are constantly increasing in the NHL, and with players like Brandon Prust getting 10 million over 4 years, you can be sure that at this time next year, Neiler could have struck it big. But he didn't. He wants to be here. He wants to continue doing what he does best:
Being an Ottawa Senator.
Bryan Murray should be commended for this contract. The term will take Neiler close to retirement, and by then, Neil will be a 4th liner. Maybe even in the second year of the deal he will be, with all the prospects coming up. But at under 2 million a season, with the intangibles Neil has shown he brings to this team, that's more than reasonable.
Links after the jump.
- Darren gives some quick thoughts on yesterday's Neil signing. As always, worth the read. [SSS]
- Here is the official Panzeri story about the Neil signing, complete with contract details. [Panzeri]
- It was a slow day in the hockey world yesterday because even Harrison Mooney over at Puck Daddy wrote about the Neil signing. [PuckDaddy]
- The Murrays were busy yesterday. In addition to re-upping Neil, they also signed defenceman Tyler Eckford to a two-way deal, presumably to give Bingo another body. [SSS]
- Darren Kramer is done in the WHL and that means it is time for him to turn pro. Here he is talking about what he needs to do to become a more complete player, and maybe some day, a replacement for Chris Neil. [Sens]
- Nichols shows why he is one of the best with this article asking if the Senators will be moving forward or backward this year. I tend to think backward, but in my mind, that's just a step on the road to forward (if that makes sense). [6thSens]
- In case you missed it yesterday, Amelia continued her trend of making the rest of us look bad by penning another incredible article, this time about scouting. Solid, solid work. [SSS]