The Calgary Flames have signed sniping winger James Neal to a five-year contract worth $5.75 million per season.
The Flames get: a proven 30-goal scorer and a consistent 23-goal scorer. But let’s not get carried away and label him a 30-goal guy. Neal has done it twice in his career, once in 2011-12 when he scored 40 playing with Evgeni Malkin, and once in 2015-16. Neal is a great addition to the Flames and upgrades their top six significantly, but some of the reaction around social media is anointing him as some sort of savior.
This is what you’re getting with James Neal: a potential linemate for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and if things click then that’s a 40-goal pace immediately. Bingo, there’s your money’s worth right there. But Neal is also a Band-Aid Boy. And not just any Band-Aid Boy, he’s in the running to join the Board of Directors (next time I update it I’ll put him there). Over the last five seasons he’s missed at least 11 games in four of them, and a total of 61 (or 12.2 per season). Over 70 games the 31-year-old (turns 31 in September) is probably a safe bet for 30 goals if he clicks on that line, and likely 60 points. And if he doesn’t click on the big line you’re looking at 25 goals, 50 points. As always. That’s solid, that’s a great addition – but that’s not a savior. Dial it back a bit, Twitter!
Fantasy Players Impacted: The situation in Calgary is clear in terms of who will be in their top six: wingers Johnny Gaudreau, Matt Tkachuk, James Neal, Elias Lindholm, and centermen Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund. Where the wingers line up will be the question. Lindholm is the only right-handed shot among those four wingers, so he’s a natural fit for the Gaudreau – Monahan line. Neal just proved that he could be a 25-goal scorer on a second line and he’s also had experience playing on his off wing. To me, things shake up like this:
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Neal
I’m sure someone will link to a quote from Calgary management stating clearly how