Now that Tavares Watch has ended, the free agency focus shifted to James Neal. Neal was considered the second-most sought after free agent this summer, but his free agency search was overshadowed by the Tavares Show. With Tavares signing yesterday, it was now Neal’s turn in the free agency spotlight.
Would the elite sniper return to Vegas to build upon the team’s inaugural season success? Or would he shop his talent to one of the other Stanley Cup contending teams needing that extra scoring push?
Well, it looks like James Neal went with neither of those.
Instead, Neal has decided to sign with the Calgary Flames. The report came in this morning from Bob McKenzie that Neal and the Flames agreed on a 5-year deal worth an AAV of $5.75 million.
I’ve got to be honest here. I have no idea why James Neal would want to go to Calgary. The past two seasons, Neal has had his season ended by watching the other team skate the Stanley Cup on his home ice. For me, it would make sense to go to a team that has the talent to not only get you to your third consecutive Stanley Cup Final, but also could help you finally get the monkey off your back to win the Cup. That’s why Neal signing with Calgary makes no sense to me.
I’m not saying that Calgary is terrible. They ended up last season just three spots behind a playoff spot, had 84 points, and were a pretty solid road team (20-15-6). They have a solid roster consisting of names like Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik, and obviously Johnny Gaudreau.
There’s a fairly solid foundation there in Calgary, one that James Neal can instantly come in and contribute to. But Calgary is still a few years away from being a team that contends for a conference final, let alone a Cup Final.
Calgary must have had one hell of a pitch to the three-time All Star. Either that, or Neal loves getting in one at the famous Calgary Stampede. Whatever reason why Neal decided to go to the Flames, it’s a move that doesn’t make a lot of sense right now. I do think Neal will get another shot at playing for the Cup; it’ll just be a few seasons before that happens.