James Neal keeps getting a raw deal


This post is part of Golden Knights Day on PHT…

Look, not many people are going to shed tears for a guy making $5 million per year, especially a player who’s been guilty of some dirty hits.

So, James Neal might not be the most sympathetic figure possible. It’s easier to feel bad for, say, Jonathan Marchessault, who’s under pressure to find true security and a consistent spot even after scoring 30 goals.

Neal, 29, has bounced around quite a bit for someone who’s been such a steady source of goals. Since 2008-09, his 238 goals rank as the 15th-most in the NHL, more than the likes of John Tavares, Max Pacioretty, Daniel Sedin, and Jamie Benn.

Neal’s first bit of career turbulence came when he was once teammates with Benn; the Dallas Stars sent Neal and Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski on Feb. 21, 2011.

However Neal felt about that move, he found outstanding chemistry on a line with Evgeni Malkin. He scored 89 goals and 184 points in 199 games with the Penguins, peaking with 40 goals and 81 points in 80 contests in 2011-12.

Malkin goosed those numbers, but he clearly benefited from Neal’s presence, winning a Hart Trophy and scoring title during that 2011-12 campaign.

As well as things often went from a stats perspective, the Penguins experienced some letdowns, and Neal was jettisoned in a trade with the Nashville Predators.

His comments to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review back in October 2014 were a real bummer.

“I mean, it wasn’t really in my hands,” Neal said. “I was a part of that team, and I never even got a call from the new coaches or the new general manager. The only time I got a call was when I had been traded.”

However Malkin felt about Neal being traded, he’s doing fine, what with the Penguins winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles since that trade. Neal ended up being productive for the Predators … though that opened the door for a twisting the knife moment: Patric Hornqvist, the featured player Pittsburgh received in that trade, scored the Cup-clinching goal against Nashville:


If that wasn’t enough, the Predators (justifiably) chose to protect four defensemen in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights couldn’t be dissuaded from selecting Neal.

So, to review: Neal has been traded twice and now selected in the expansion draft. Even with a modified no-trade clause, his run of having little control over his situation continued. He saw the team that traded him repeat as champions and now he leaves a well-built contender for an expansion team.

Oh yeah, and with only a year remaining on his contract, there’s pressure to earn his next one. What if playing for the Golden Knights hurts his numbers, and thus his market value? What if another trade happens and that doesn’t work out?

Those are all unfortunate possibilities for Neal, who should maybe change his nickname to “The Raw Deal.”

Some parting advice, then: Neal should hold out for an ironclad no-movement clause in his next … deal.

The Buzzer: Shutouts for three, Dubnyk gets win No. 200

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Players of the Night:

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils and Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs: Where do we begin on the night of the shutout? Rask didn’t have a particularly busy night making 23 saves, but when you’re facing names like Kucherov and Stamkos, it’s always dangerous. Still, Rask kept rolling along. He is 27-3-2 in his past 32 starts. That’s just silly. … Kinkaid, meanwhile stopped 38 — including 19 in the first period — in a 3-0 win against the Kings for his fourth career shutout. … No Frederik Andersen for Toronto? No problem. McElhinney stepped in and pitched a 33-save performance as the Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The Blues defenseman scored twice in regulation and then assisted on Brayden Schenn‘s overtime winner to cap off a three-point night.

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: While he didn’t get a shutout, Dubnyk did stop 30 of 31 en route to his 200th career NHL win. The win was also important for the Wild, who moved to within five points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central Division, and moved five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for third place.

Highlights of the Night:

Filthy pass:

First-goal celebrations are always the best:

Voracek with a slick move in front:

Save of the year candidate:

Factoids of the Night:

Home is where the wins are:

A legend passes a legend:

Believe in McJesus:

Scary Scenes of the Night:


Sabres 5, Blackhawks 3

Oilers 4, Panthers 2

Devils 3, Kings 0

Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

Bruins 3, Lightning 0

Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2

Blue Jackets 2, Senators 1

Blue 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

Wild 3, Coyotes 1

Sharks 5, Canucks 3

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Senators’ Ryan Dzingel drilled in the head with a puck (video)

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We already saw one lacerated leg, and now we have a one-timer drilling a player in the back of the helmet.

Saturday night hasn’t been so kind.

Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel was forced to leave the game after some friendly fire against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss.

Dzingel was drilled in the back of the head from teammate Mike Hoffman‘s one-timer of the back of his helmet around the mid-way point of the third period.

Dzingel remained down for a time but was able to skate off the ice with some assistance from Ottawa’s trainers.

He did not return to the game.

If you watch this closely, you will see Dzingel’s No. 8 on the back of his helmet fly off after contact with the puck.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins’ David Backes suffers leg laceration in collision (video)


A scary scene unfolded in the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

David Backes and Yanni Gourde came together in the Lightning crease, with Gourde’s skate appearing to cut Backes on the outside of his right leg.

Backes was able to make his way to the Bruins bench on his own, but he was clutching the back of his leg before getting some help down the tunnel.

Backes did not return to the game.

The Bruins said that Backes suffered a laceration above his right knee, which required several stitches to close.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report


The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

“Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck