A team has stepped up to pay James Neal what he wants, and that’s the Calgary Flames.
Neal, who was selected by Vegas in last year’s expansion draft from the Nashville Predators, had been seeking a deal close to $6 million per year once free agency began. The Golden Knights and Neal had been in discussions on a new deal, but Vegas was not willing to go toward his desired price tag, according to a source.
Vegas appeared to have moved on from Neal when free agency opened Sunday, signing forward Paul Stastny to a three-year deal worth $6.5 million per year. General manager George McPhee said Sunday that the team and Neal were still discussing parameters of a new contract.
“Yes, we’re still talking to James,” McPhee said per Dave Schoen of the Review-Journal.
It’s a late Canada Day celebration for the Flames. Their signing of Neal has eliminated two-thirds of Vegas’ second line from this past season. David Perron returned to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday with a four-year deal worth $4 million AAV.
Vegas has just under $19 million remaining in cap space dedicated to 13 skaters, six defensemen and two goalies. There is still the matter of Vegas re-signing its restricted free agents, notably William Karlsson, Shea Theodore and Colin Miller. With Neal out of the fold, that could pave the way for the Golden Knights to move forward on a possible trade for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Reports indicate such a move would have to include forward Bobby Ryan.
Those two combine to make a tad over $13 million in salary.
That situation is still up in the air. What is clear is Neal will be playing for his fifth different team in 12 seasons, but the first time the Ontario native will play for his home country.