Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun broke the news tonight that Chris Neil has signed a three-year extension with the Senators, valued at a reported $5.75M over the course of the contract. Neil was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, but the Senators decided to lock him up before the process dragged out (like it did last time around).
|2011 - Chris Neil||13||15||28||-10||178|
Neil is coming off of one of his most productive seasons as an Ottawa Senator, making this deal much more palatable than when he signed a four-year deal in 2009 worth $8M after a 10 point campaign, a contract that drew the ire of many fans at the time. It's a minor pay cut from his last deal, which makes sense given that he'll be 37 by the time the contract ends. It's not more of a pay cut because salaries have continued to rise since Neil signed back in 2009, and pugilists who can actually play hockey are still a valuable commodity on the open market.
Neil has proven himself to be a valuable component of Ottawa's rebuild, and is no doubt part of the reason that physical players like Colin Greening and Zack Smith managed to perform well early in their NHL careers. Neil's been given a significant third-line role under coach Paul MacLean, one that includes a surprising amount of powerplay time -- Neil played an average of 1:42 on the PP each game, 23 seconds more per game than the recently departed Nick Foligno.
It's hard to imagine Ottawa's all-time penalty minutes leader in anything but a Senators jersey, and it looks like Bryan Murray and Chris Neil agree.