James Neal for Troy Brouwer is a good trade for the Flames’ lineup

By deciding to sign James Neal, the Flames effectively pushed Troy Brouwer off of the team. It wasn’t the definitively final nail in the coffin, but it was one of them.

The good news is that, despite the longer contract and higher cap hit, Neal is much more likely to play the role the Flames initially thought Brouwer would.

Free agent signings

To give, you gotta get. Whether it be via trade or free agency, something is taking a hit: in the former you’re giving up something (or someone) valuable, and in the latter, you’re giving up cap space.

Troy Brouwer James Neal
Cap hit $4.5 million $5.75 million
Term 4 years 5 years
NTC Yes No

The Flames have had a problem: they don’t have any high end right wingers. They haven’t since Jarome Iginla left, really. Not that big a problem when you’re a rebuilding team; a much bigger one when the rest of the lineup is filling out but there’s nobody to complement it on the right side, leaving an entire section of the ice a gaping hole.

To rectify that, the Flames signed a 30-year-old Brouwer (he turned 31 before the season started). He was coming off of a 13-point playoff run, and in addition to his 39 points in the regular season before, he’d also scored 43 in back-to-back years. In Calgary, he never scored more than 25 in a single season, and that he couldn’t live up to expectations was part of the team’s woes in their dismal 2017-18 scoring record that played a key part in them missing the playoffs.

To rectify that, the Flames signed a 30-year-old Neal (he’ll turn 31 before the season starts). He’s coming off of an 11-point playoff run, and scored 44 points in the regular season prior to that (more than Brouwer has ever scored in a single NHL season). Prior to that, Neal has had 41- and 58-point seasons. The initial track record is that much better, hence Neal costing more.

And here’s the kicker: while there were warning signs Brouwer wouldn’t live up to his contract, even though Neal is already in his 30s, he doesn’t face the same issues. That’s not to say he’ll live up to his cap hit his entire contract, but it is to say the Flames should be able to expect, at minimum, a consistent ability to play in the top six for at least a few seasons.

Underlying numbers

A lot of Brouwer’s warning signs could be found in his corsi. No, it’s not the end all, be all of statistics, but it is a handy part of the puzzle one can use to predict future success (or lack thereof). For Brouwer, he was barely ever a 50% player at 5v5: more shot attempts were almost always going against his team than for it whenever he was on the ice. The lone exception was whenever he played a season in which his offensive zone start ratios for the season were over 50%.

Neal is different. His corsi ratings have almost always been over 50%; you have to go back to two of his seasons in Dallas – two of the first three seasons of his career – to find numbers under 50%. However, there is a very notable asterisk to that: Neal has always been a sheltered player relative to his team. His offensive zone start ratios have always been over 50%, and have even topped 60% four times in his 11-year career.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. This is when you go back to Brouwer and Neal’s raw points totals. While Brouwer has never been afforded the opportunities to score Neal has, that’s probably because he’s just not as good at it. Brouwer is a career .45 point per game player; Neal is a .70 guy. And that’s with Brouwer having a career 13.8 shooting percentage, while Neal has a 12.1% – Neal has taken almost 1,000 more shots than Brouwer over the course of their careers to date, and has scored almost 100 more goals, all while being a little less lucky.

In the same way nobody stresses over Johnny Gaudreau’s performance because he gets favourable offensive zone starts, neither should Neal’s cause concern. They’re scorers. You put scorers in the best position you can to score. That was just never Brouwer’s game.

Both Brouwer and Neal have played for good teams prior to joining the Flames; both have played at least 100 NHL playoff games. By looking at their relative 5v5 corsi results throughout their careers, we can take a glance at just how big an impact they had on their team’s success (numbers via Natural Stat Trick):

Troy Brouwer James Neal
Season Team ATOI 5v5 CF rel 5v5 OZS Team ATOI 5v5 CF rel 5v5 OZS
2013-14 WSH 18:51 0.16 47.90 PIT 18:27 10.03 56.97
2014-15 WSH 17:31 -0.70 55.01 NSH 18:05 5.38 65.51
2015-16 STL 17:00 -3.38 40.45 NSH 19:04 1.65 60.91
2016-17 CGY 16:13 -7.52 52.32 NSH 17:42 1.01 56.43
2017-18 CGY 13:56 -3.70 41.56 VGK 17:11 -0.51 54.38

Even when Brouwer was sheltered, he still didn’t perform well; meanwhile, Neal has posted superior results across the board, even though he’s had his advantages along the way. He isn’t the perfect player, and things will probably get worse as his contract goes on – there’s no telling yet if his first negative relative season since his sophomore year is a part of his inevitable decline, or if it was just a blip on the radar – but for the most part, Neal has proven himself reliable for a decade.

Via Bill Comeau’s SKATR Comparison Tool, we can also directly compare Brouwer and Neal over the past two years, over all facets of the game:

Neal is just the better player across the board. He relies less on secondary assists to put up points (a good thing, as a strong majority primary points suggests he’s more involved in creating chances) and he doesn’t start as often in the defensive zone. That’s it.

WOWY impact

Then there’s how each player affects his linemates.

Before signing with Calgary, in 2015-16, Brouwer played for St. Louis. His most common linemates were Paul Stastny, David Backes, and Robby Fabbri:

CF% w/ Brouwer Brouwer CF% w/out Player CF% w/out
Stastny 50.33 49.00 55.51
Backes 49.18 50.21 52.47
Fabbri 51.67 46.59 52.63

All players were better away from Brouwer than with him.

During the 2017-18 season with Vegas, Neal played almost exclusively with David Perron and Erik Haula:

CF% w/ Neal Neal CF% w/out Player CF% w/out
Perron 51.16 49.06 34.25
Haula 51.88 48.55 40.54

Neal had a positive impact on his linemates, especially where Perron is concerned.

If you go further back through Brouwer’s seasons, you’ll find he fairly consistently had a negative impact on his linemates’ underlying numbers. Neal, on the other hand, has been a more of a mixed bag: going back through his seasons he and his linemates have often improved one another’s numbers, sometimes Neal has brought a linemate up, and sometimes Neal has brought a linemate down. It’s all really rather average, which is certainly better than consistently negative.

Neal isn’t the perfect signing, particularly as a soon-to-be 31-year-old on a five-year term. But when you dig through his career to date, there’s plenty of evidence that he can still be a productive player, and one much more likely to fill the role the Flames originally thought they’d be paying Brouwer for. He can still score at a top six level. He can still make sure more shots are directed towards the opponent’s net than his own when on the ice. And he can still help improve on his linemates’ performances.

Neal is the better player, and he projects to be the better player in the future. The Flames eventually had to buy Brouwer out, arguably because of Neal’s signing, and they improved their forward lineup by doing just that.

  • aye

    I really do hope Neal works out for the Flames, but I’m still not confident his signing will end better for the Flames than the Brouwer signing. If you really think about it, Neal is only making 250k less than Lucic in Edmonton, who was brought in to do the same thing with McDavid as the Flames are hoping he will do with Johnny and Mony, and Lucic is actually a year younger, with the same term left. While I do believe Neal is better than Brouwer, and does make the right side much stronger than what the Flames had the last few seasons, but will he be better than Lucic, or will his contract turn out to be as big a problem? I know Neal and Lucic contracts aren’t necessarily fair comparison, but I’m sceptical of the value he will actually bring.
    I’m actually more confident that Gio, who is 4 years older and making 1M more, will actually earn his pay than Neal will his.

    • Getpucksdeep

      Totally different players and don’t see a Lucic parallel at all. We all got to see Neal in the playoffs, his foot speed is fine and neither Lucic nor Brouwer have anything close to the shot this guy can take or his ability to get into scoring positions. He’s no Laine or Ovi but he does get open and can shoot it from anywhere and quickly. He takes 200 shots a year which if Tkachuk had played every game would now see the Flames with 5 forwards with 200 shots/yr on the roster. In Oilerland only McDavid exceeded 200 and Lucic had 147 by example.

    • The Doctor

      James Neal was seriously in the discussion for our Olympic team. Also known as the most difficult team on the planet to make. Brouwer not. That alone speaks volumes.

    • LannyMac

      Man I am going to remember aye’s post and I am going to throw it in a few peoples faces if it holds true. I am also one that hopes this signing works but I also believe this signing will be bunk for the last two to three years.

    • aye

      People seem to forget Neal was left unprotected because he was deemed by NSH to be too expensive at $5M, and VGK’s original plan was to trade him at TDL. He had a hot start and scored a bunch in the first 2 weeks of last season, and then really slowed down rest of the year. So, I’m not convinced how he is worth $5.75 x 5 at age 31 (in a month).
      I’m not arguing that he isn’t a huge upgrade over Brouwer, I just think it’s too much term and money. BT has done great with drafting and internal signings, but his FA signings have been more misses than hits.
      The fact that fans are so excited over Neal shows how thin Flames are on the right side. Even now, I look at the right side and still see question marks. What I see is a few right shot centers that’s capable of playing the RW, and even then, they are not bona fide stars (yet). Hopefully Lindholm becomes that, but again, it’s a question mark, is he a Center or RW? Ryan is basically good bottom 6 depth, and at 31, I don’t think we should be counting on him too much. Czarnik is unproven.
      Yes, with all the offseason moves, the Flames have a lot more options and a lot more depth, but have we really found a solution? I recall during the Iggy era how excited fans were everytime Flames brought in a playmaker that supposedly addressed the setup-man issue, only to be let down, and chalked up as a failed experiment.
      I really hope Neal works out, but am sceptical.

  • FL?MES

    This was a great write up with lots of detail. The way I read into it, Neal appears to be a great fit for the first line where he can get offensive zone starts, help out in the Corsi department and put up some points. On that line there is no reason why he shouldn’t put up 50+ points this season.

    • Flaming Glory

      Put Neal with bennett and janko. Less minutes(He’ll last longer), easier opposition plus tougher for the opposition to line match. His style should mesh well with those two as well. However put him on PP1.

  • freethe flames

    Reading this article makes one think about who would be his best line mates. If he plays with Johnny/Monny great Ozone starts are guaranteed. This may be the best way to use him. It sounds that BP is leaning towards it being Lindholm.(early reports anyways but lets wait for training camp). If that’s the case do you play him Backs who usually gets the most D zone starts or with one of the other centers Janko or Ryan? If it’s me I would be more inclined to give Janko more Ozone starts than Ryan. If that’s the case and you play Janko and Neal together who go you have as their third linemate? For me it’s one of the following Tkachuk(it’s time to give him some more offensive opportunities), Bennett(he and Janko had some good moments last year) or even Mangiapane (chemistry with Janko has been obvious the last two years in the AHL). Another guy might be Czarnik as the Flames are high on him. Neal LW/Janko C/Czarnik RW might be a good option.

    Here’s hoping we get three solid years from Neal and that the new CBA includes compliance buyouts. (My ideal compliance buyout program would allow teams 3 compliance buyouts over the term of the CBA)

    • Jagrrrrr, baby. Yeah.

      I was thinking the same thing. Maybe his best spot for the first couple years, while he can still keep up, is with Monny and Johnny. Before now I had Lindy as 1RW, Neal as 2RW, Frolik as 3RW, but maybe switch Neal and Lindy to start?

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        Its a toss up for me, because I think Lindholm can kick it up a notch or two, and it would be pretty friggin sweet if he could gel with the top line. Can you imagine three under 25 year old stars each getting over 50-60 points?? That could be the line to beat for years. Also Lindholm with that right shot face off. So I’m still drawn towards that. Lindholm can and will get 60-70 points if he plays on that line, and it will really kick start his game.

        But I wonder about the benefits of having Neal as 1rw, too. (some good veteran) leadership/old tricks/his edge he plays with rubbing off on those two; his sniping ability, and general offensive creativity; and his tough in your face play are all good things to have with Johnny and Mony.

        But they do have a sniper on that line already. And it would be nice to me at least to spread out the scoring. If James Neal is the real deal he can be part of an effective second pairing, and finally give us that scoring second line we’ve needed.

        Backs can be that playmaker. He’s had to be a defensive juggernaut, and he’s damn good at it, but he can be a scoring line centre if we allow him to be. He could easily score 50+ if so.

        Janko could maybe do it too, and Neal’s leadership and experience could help with that process of getting Janko more seasoned. Janks will also come into training camp with a chip on his shoulder.

        And either way I REALLY like the idea of a chunky-Neal combo. Neal does deserve to play with (a) star(s), and that’s Chuck. They both have really great hockey IQ, and will generate a lot of chemistry.

        Anyways, long story short, I’m for Lindholm 1rw and Neal as 223rd.

        • TurkeyLips

          “I REALLY like the idea of a chunky-Neal on the 223rd line.”

          Lmao please, not until his last contract year!

          That edit button may well be on the dark side of the moon.

        • freethe flames

          I agree that Backs can be that play maker but I wonder if that is the best place to use Backs overall game? Will the need to shelter Neal to ozone starts be best for a guy like Backs? I also agree about Tkachuk and Neal’s hockey IQ and I also see that in Janko and as the season progressed I also started to notice Janko getting a little more engaged; not willing to be be pushed around.

          • Baalzamon

            Neal won’t need to be sheltered if he’s playing with Backlund and Tkachuk. If Backlund can get Joe Colborne to 44 points he can get Neal to 50+ easily.

        • Baalzamon

          But I wonder about the benefits of having Neal as 1rw, too. (some good veteran) leadership/old tricks/his edge he plays with rubbing off on those two; his sniping ability, and general offensive creativity; and his tough in your face play are all good things to have with Johnny and Mony.

          I realize the significance of this is largely subjective, but Lindholm is consistently credited with more hits than Neal is. I think he’s a lot scrappier than most here give him credit for.

          (Especially last season. Lindholm had 98 hits; Neal had 44)

          • Sterls

            In his draft year Lindholm was compared to Peter Forsberg stylistically. I know a lot of swedish players get that comparison, but you need to have some edge to your game to get mentioned in the same sentence as Forsberg.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I am divided on this one. I think Neal is the sniper that Johnny and Monny have been waiting for, however there is a lot of reasons why Lindholm could be a better fit. Lindholm is quicker, younger, and better defensively. I think he will help Johnny and Monny tread water in the D zone. But I think the best argument for putting Lindholm on the top line is his ability to drive to the net and tip shots. Johnny does not have the hardest shot which would be ideal for a tipping specialist like Lindholm. I would like to see Neal with Tkachuk and Janko.

    • Kevin R

      I know Gaudreau is really posturing to play with Neal but if you have Gaudreau/Monahan/Lindholm, then I would try Tkachuk/Janko/Neal & then I would follow up with Bennett/Backlund/Czernik & suddenly you have ?/Ryan/Frolik
      Holy smokes, if Czernik turns out to be what Tre is hoping & what other teams were looking at, that is 4 pretty solid lines.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        Definitely agree with everyone on this thread. And Baalz, great points. We (or at least me) are underestimating what Lindholm brings.

        I would also love a Chuck-Janko-Neal line. And a Bennett Backs Czar, if Czar worked out, could be super super dynamic.

        This is the kind of lineup I would be going for. Three strong lines.

        Dube(?)-Ryan-Frolik then seems like an amazing 4th line.

        We got depth for days! But seriously. Make Chuck-Janko-Neal a thing. You won’t regret it Rebar. Three power forwards on a line? Skill? Finess? Hockey IQ? Size? Scoring?? What’s not to like?? And even the argument that Janko isn’t ready for second line c can be compensated for by the fact that you have two highly skilled, mature, and intelligent wingers.

        • Mickey O'Reaves

          “And even the argument that Janko isn’t ready for second line c can be compensated for by the fact that you have two highly skilled, mature, and intelligent wingers.”

          Ha, love it! That’s the ultimate compliment to Matthew Tkachuk. The Kid is still the ripe ol’ age of 20.

          I’ll say it yet again – after watching young Byng play his first 5 or 6 weeks into his NHL career, you couldn’t tell that he wasn’t a 5 or 6 year veteran out on the ice. The Kid simply gets the concept!

  • TurkeyLips

    Tavares free agency seems like ages ago but that was a pivotal moment for the league. Considering the Flames never landed him, we did pretty well all things considered.

    So FN your vote. To the Flames, would you rather have added:

    PROPS – 27 y.o. Tavares for 7 years = $11 million AAV or

    TRASHES – 31 y.o. Neal (5.75 AAV) + 31 y.o. Ryan (3.125 AAV) + 25 y.o. Czarnik (1.25 AAV) = $10.125 million AAV

    • Getpucksdeep

      I get you’re thinking and that could be the way it shakes down who knows. The only question mark I’m seeing is the notion that since Czarnik signed for an extra $250,000 he now somehow a shoe in. I haven’t seen him play so can’t comment, but he still has to make the team and guys like Foo, Dube and apparently Mangiapane will put pressure on him. Czarnik has 10 games to his credit no matter how well he’s played or been scouted in the AHL.

        • Kevin R

          Tre has said they felt Czernik was the best forward in the AHL & felt he was a mirror image on the cusp of breaking out at the NHL level to that of Marscheallt(sp?) He was that high on this kid. As much as I doubt Vegas duplicates what they did last year, they opened a lot of GM’s eyes.

      • Sterls

        Yes Czarnik is a bit of an unknown for us Flames fans, but he is one of the guys who will get a good long NHL audition. He had a ton of clubs interested in him so sending him down to the AHL won’t happen due to his requirement to clear waivers. Thus it is likely he makesthe team or
        he is traded, because someone will snag him off of waivers if we opt to send him down.

    • Boring Flames Fan

      To put it into that perspective, I must admit it seems strange that we received 3 good players for the price of one.

      Tavares will definitely help the Leafs big time, but 3 guys who can help us on the right wing, when we were short in that area.

  • Off the wall

    I don’t mean to hijack this forum.
    It appears I’m stirring up controversy with story telling.

    I don’t wish to be an irritant to my fellow FN members, so I’m asking if you want me to quit with the stories.

    Cheers for story
    Trash for NO story, ever

    Thanks FN

  • meat1

    What maybe impressed me most about the buyout is the fact that Tre just showed he’s not scared to admit a mistake. We all make them. I will be very surprised now if Lazar is on the opening night roster. I think that this training camp will be the most competitive we’ve seen ever. As a fan, I don’t know how much more Tre could have done this summer to help turn us into a legitimate contender…I realize the games still need to be played, but I’ll put our team today against a lot of the others!

  • Greg

    Biggest worry I still have with this roster is the backup goaltending. One prolonged injury to Smith, or even just a slight drop in his play, could still sink the season. BTs interview yesterday didn’t give any indication they are working on that this off season.

    I’m sure they aren’t blind to it though. I hope they are already working trade options in case that goes wrong mid season.

    • oilcanboyd

      How can a team solidify their goaltending if they keep trading them off even before they have a real good chance of succeeding. Our goaltending will look much better in the upcoming season because Peters will upgrade our defensive style of play which really was a tire fire under GG coaching staff. GGA should fall no matter who is in net.

    • freethe flames

      The goalie situation is a concern but if managed properly it should work out. Personally I think the overall talent on this team should improve our GA average and our GF average. Goalies will not need to steal as many games as they had to in the past. Secondly if GP does 2 out of 3 or 4 out of 6 with Smith and Rittich/Gilles situation then hopefully Smith can be healthy and stay sharp. If one of the back up falters don’t immediately panic but know there are options on the farm.) Maybe Parsons lives up to his hype. Goalies as we say are voodoo. I also wonder if with the extra cap space that seems available that they might look at something closer to the regular season.

      • The Doctor

        It reminds me of what people say about Team Canada goaltending: we don’t need our goalies to steal games for us, we just need them not to lose games for us. I think we’ll be good enough up front this year that that will be our situation.

    • buts

      Greg you bring up backup goaltending as a problem and your 100% right and get trashed while stating a legit concern. This team can have the best lineup in the world and if you don’t have goaltending your nothing. Coaching style systems won’t cover up bad goalies. If and when Smith gets hurt we are in trouble.

  • The GREAT WW

    Skill and speed tell only part of the difference between Brouwer and Neal.
    It’s the “give a crap” meter that is the biggest difference.

    Neal is a winner, Brouwer is a loser….


      • FL?MES

        WW is right. For me it was watching him on the ice. There were times when I focused solely on Brouwer. He just didn’t to anything to improve his game and was consistently bad. For example, always standing off to the side of the trying to tip pucks when you don’t know to tip – stand in front of the net at some point, screen the goalie, and pot some garbage goals. He rarely went to the dirty areas and played a safe and ineffective game. It was awful to watch.

        • JoelOttosJock

          Ok but to question someone’s effort..come on. We do not know if the coaching staff asked him to play like that. I agree I didnt like how brouwer played or was utilized, but to to attack his character is wrong.

          • freethe flames

            There is character off the ice and there is character on the ice. He was brought in supposedly because of his leadership qualities and IMO he did little to demonstrate them to the outside world; ie he comments about Johnny needing to deal with the slashes or not coming to his team mates aid on the ice; I can only recall one time in two years where he stood up for someone. These are observations of things he did or did not do. If this is attacking his character then I apologize.

          • HAL MacInnis

            Personally, I think he got overwhelmed by the responsibility he accepted and his enthusiasm evaporated. I mean, you’re brought in to do a certain job, and you’re not living up to your end of the bargain. You show up to work every day and everybody looks at you and they know it too. Some people rise to the occasion and try harder… or they wilt under the pressure. Everybody can recognize real effort, even in failure.

            I’ll let you guys decide how Brouwer reacted to his situation.

      • fumanchu1968

        Brouwer was supposed to be a gritty player. How many times did you see him stick up for players like JG and Smith when they were slashed and/or run over in the crease? Never. Zero heart.

    • Off the wall

      That ‘A’ would look good on Neal.
      Brouwer.. well he wore it, but didn’t warrant it.

      What I remember most from Neal during the playoffs, was his drive. Brouwer doesn’t have it, I don’t think he even had the steering wheel?!

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      I could be wrong on the actual specifics, but Brouwer needed the Messier-Treatment. Shorty story time: after Jimmy Carson was brought to the Oilers in the massive Gretzky deal, Carson was dog-facking it – thinking he was the man.

      Supposedly Messier pinned Carson against the wall – by his throat – during the second intermission of a game. Messier “politely” reminded Carson, “Do you have any idea who we traded you for?”

  • Squishin

    Off-topic, but I want to make a big shout-out to Rob Kerr, who yesterday completed his final show on 960. He was a big part of my Flames hockey experience as a teenager, especially during the ’04 cup run. I appreciate the way he communicates and his humility on the air. His interview yesterday with Brad Treliving was world-class, and I also think that he got the most out of Gary Bettman that we’ve ever heard in the two or three interviews they did.

    Best of luck to Rob in his new adventure, and good luck to Pat Steinberg filling those shoes.

  • MDG1600

    He is without doubt an upgrade to Brouwer. If you factor in the buyout it has really cost the Flames 7.25M to sign Neal. It is a risky gamble because so many players have their productivity fall off a cliff when they get in to their early 30’s. Yes, I understand that some players carry on playing well but predicting who does and who doesn’t is a crapshoot. I Hope like hell I am wrong but I won’t be surprised if within 2 years he is unanimously considered the most overpaid Flame. I know this post will get trashed but I am not saying they shouldn’t have signed him because if he plays well for the next 3 years it will be a good deal. I do however think the unbridled enthusiasm of FN isn’t really ackowledging that there is a risky side to this deal ( as there is to most deals to be fair).

    • freethe flames

      I think most of us agree with you about the last couple of years of the deal being problematic. Again why I’m hoping for compliance buyouts in the new CBA. Based upon how many of the core young players who are signed long term, and the fact that the complimentary veterans are signed for the next two years it is up to BP to push this team into the playoff conversation and Neal can help with that. But being successful this season does not just rely on him their are many others who need big seasons; bounce back years from Frolik/Backs/Brodie, progression years from Tkachuk, Janko, Bennett, Johnny, Monny, Lindholm, and Hanifin all should be expected; arrival years from any of the following: Czarnak, Mangiapane, Foo, Andersson, Dube, Gilles and Valimaki all are needed to for success.

      • calgaryfan

        not understanding why you want more buyouts, the teams already have a buyout window at the end of the season. I know it affects the cap but that is the same for all teams. The GM’s need to be smarter in who they sign and for what term. More buyouts without it affecting the cap just gives the Leafs and Rangers and others an advantage.

        • freethe flames

          If I recall a compliance buyout does not count against the cap. When it was introduced in the last CBA it only lasted for 2 years and the Flames never used it. That’s the why I would to see it reintroduced but I would like to the # whatever it be be rolled over during the term of the CBA.

          • freethe flames

            Calgary Fan: What advantage? The teams that currently have the advantage are teams that can absorb a bad contract because they problems getting to the cap floor, that aspect would be reduced significantly. Most owners have the ability to absorb a compliance buyout. One way around your concern would be to limit it to 1 or 2 over the term of CBA.

          • oilcanboyd

            The advantage would be that the Leafs, etc would be in on at least three UFAs each every year, offering top dollar and outbidding oilers, flames, jets. And well, if they did not work out – dump them

    • oilcanboyd

      MDG you are over simplifying it as does this blog headline. Dumping Brouwer enables the Flames to offer a decent perhaps long term contract to Hanafin, which would not be possible with Brouwer fully on the books…AND it opens up a RW spot for a prospect. So IMHO, the 7.25 mill is not really the value of the risk as you stated.

  • StajansFinalPaycheck 3.5

    A pylon and a used stick of chewing gum is better value on the ice than Brouwer was. Makes me wonder if someone else was directing player usage last season. Could GG possibly be so dumb?

  • C Watson

    Bit of a pipe dream but this is my idea for season’s starting line-up.
    Johnny – Mony – Neal
    Benny – Elias – Byng
    Dube – Backs – Czarnik
    Mange – Janko – Ryan
    Frolik – Foo
    Each line (with the exception of the first line) has a leftie – rightie centre for strong side face-offs and balanced scoring throughout. Four lines with scoring potential and very difficult to defend against.

    • everton fc

      I think the lines will be these;


      Ryan will not play 4th line minutes, though I’d rather see Ryan as 4C, and Jankowski at 3C. Nor will Frolik play 4th line minutes, and he won’t be an extra forward. Frolik will do well on a line w/Bennett and Ryan, but I don’t see a lot of offence from that line, as I do w/Jankowski in the pivot.

      Hathaway and Lazar will be on this team, though Lazar could get bumped by a player like Foo, who could spot Czarnik, if the latter prices nothing much, as he did w/the Bruins organization. I know I’ll get trashed for this next statement, but I still like Hathaway with Jankowski, and wouldn’t mind a 4th line of Mangiapane-Jankowski-Hathaway, if Ryan’s the 3C. Alas, w/Czarnik here, this won’t occur, outside injuries.

      • freethe flames

        Personally I think we get caught up way to much in the old first line second line discussion. I think Ryan was brought here to help win face offs and to add depth scoring and his 200 ft game. Where he fits in the old jargon matters not. The key is how BP sees best in creating 4 lines that have roles and which players fit those roles.

    • Getpucksdeep

      I still can’t see the logic in pushing Tkachuk to his off wing when we just aquired 3 new RShots who can play RW. Also aquired Neal whos a Lshot but natural RW. Frolik CAN switch wings. I also see a more experienced player like Ryan centering the 4th where his wingers may change often.

      Guadreau Monahan Lindholm
      Tkachuk Backlund Neal
      Bennett Jankowski Foo
      Frolik Ryan Czarnik?

      Hathaway Lazar

      Gio Brodie
      Hanafin Hamonic
      Andersson Stone

      Valamaki should go AHL to get 20 minutes a game, which he wouldn’t get in the NHL. to start. Andersson apparantly has played both sides in the AHL and he’s the most NHL ready D man. I still liked Foo’s audition better than any of the others and guys like Foo have to play top 9 to be effective. Czarnik has to earn that 4th line spot.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I would never have even thought to compare Brouwer and Neal because they have been totally different players throughout their careers. Neal has been a bona fide goal scorer since he entered the league and has never scored fewer than 21 goals a season, while Brouwer only scored 20+ goals three times.

    Though I might be Tre’s harshest critic on this forum, he gets top marks for the Neal signing. He addressed a glaring weakness on his team by signing arguably the best goal-scoring FA available. Neal has been one of the most consistent goal scorers since he entered the league. Moreover, his scoring touch has not been hurt by playing with different linemates for different coaches and on different teams. The man just scores. Tre did not throw a wad at a guy who might score a lot if the planets happen to align the right way. He went after the best and got him. Tre made absolutely the right move here and I will not fault him for it if it turns out a flop.

    As for Neal, do you think he will score more than or fewer than 100 goals as a Flame? If Neal can maintain his remarkable health over the next five years, he should be a cinch to score 100+.

  • Bob Hartley

    When you’ve got a guy who’s scored 20 goals, 10 + years in a row, are you paying him for what he’s done or what you think he’s gonna do? Cause I for one do not think he will score 20 goals each year for the remainder of his contract. What if he doesn’t get 20 this year? The critics will be all over him. Then the pressure is really on to do it next year.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      When the deal was announced, I diligently dissected the deal every possible way I knew how to denounce Tre for making yet another dumb FA signing. I could not find enough faults with the deal to argue it was a bad one. The merits of it so overwhelmingly outweigh the demerits. This is the kind of audacious deal that reminded me of trader Cliff’s plays for Tonelli and Mullen and Gilmour. Tre went after an A-1 FA and got him. As for Neal, the man has built a rock solid resume in the NHL, so while there will surely be a dip in his goal production during the span of his contract, don’t expect Neal to do any cliff diving in the next 5 years. He ain’t Brouwer.

    • HOCKEY83

      He scored 24 goals in his first 56 games last season and then scored 1 in his last 15 due to an injury to his hand he missed 11 games for. I think if he plays most of the season and if he gets played properly with 17 to 19 minutes average ice time with the right players…20 goals will be a walk in the park for him

    • oilcanboyd

      What IFs? What if he scores more than Mark Stone at 7.35 million for next year? Now you have a value contract…

      There is no pressure on a player who knows he can perform

  • freethe flames

    Off topic: What are people’s thoughts on the Gibson contract? Long and lots of money for a good goalie. What about the Karlson in Vegas? I actually like it; he gets paid for last year but has to prove it’s not a fluke before he gets term.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    IMO, the Neal signing was the most exciting player move the Flames have made since the glorious Gilmour trade in ’88. The Neal deal really could prove to be a game changer for the Flames. That is how much I value Jimmy Neal.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        I was referring to my reaction to deals at the time they were made, not looking retrospectively at them swaddled safely in the comfy lambs wool we call hindsight. At the time of the Iginla deal, I held my breath and swallowed hard as the club paid an enormous price for the highly-touted rookie. IMO, you have to go back to the ’80s to see Flames’ deals that registered on the Richter scale at the time they happened, such as Tonelli, Mullen nd Gilmour. While the Housley deal in ’94 should have caused a buzz of excitement, it did not because even though the Flames had acquired a future HOFer, it cost them a future HOFer whom I considered a better overall player.

  • thumz

    I’d be keen to see Neal with Backs and Chucky. Imagine if someone on that line last year put the puck in the net with any regularity! Too much Swedish, no FINISH.

  • Sven

    “James Neal for Troy Brouwer is a good trade for the Flames’ lineup”

    Possibly the understatement of the off season

    Evaluation of statistics and advanced analysis re all games played in all situations suggests that the 30 year old James Neal has been the 29th most effective forward in the NHL over the last four seasons

    Evaluation of those same numbers suggests that the soon to be 33 year old Troy Brouwer ranks in the mid 180’s

    There not even really the same species

    • Sven

      I think you may be right

      I think Ryans signing is flying under the radar out here

      I think him playing on the third line could be a huge surprise for Flames fans

      we have the ability to ice three very solid lines this year –

      and I don’t think the defense has really stepped back

      If Mr Smith starts well –

      and if some of the kids step up
      (Andersson, Foo, Mangiapane, Czarnik)

      I think it may be a very good year