The St. Louis Blues announced on Saturday afternoon that they have signed veteran forward James Neal to a one-year contract worth $750,000 for the 2021-22 season.
The signing comes after Neal had been in training camp with the Blues on a professional tryout contract.
He made that most of that opportunity.
Neal was outstanding in the preseason for the Blues, scoring a team high four goals on 17 shots in his five appearances. It’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing for the Blues as the salary cap hit is minimal with the chance that he could still offer something in the right role.
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At his peak Neal was one of the top goal scorers in the NHL and had some big seasons with Pittsburgh, Nashville and Vegas. But after signing a long-term deal with the Calgary Flames his production started to plummet. He was eventually traded to Edmonton where he had a brief resurgence at the start of the 2019-20 season, and then quickly regressed again. This offseason the Oilers bought out the remainder of his contract, making him a free agent.
If you are counting on Neal to be a top-line contributor at this point you are going to be disappointed. But there is still the chance that in a power play role, or an offensive minded role with sheltered minutes that he might still have enough left to produce a little. If it doesn’t work, the Blues are not really out anything. If it works, a playoff team simply adds a little more scoring depth for a dirt cheap price against the salary cap.