Photo Credit: Sergei Belski

Report: Flames are exploring their trade options for James Neal

It’s the time of year where National Hockey League clubs prepare for the frenzy of movement that will follow the NHL Draft. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet 960’s morning show on Friday and reiterated a piece of information that’s been making the rounds: the Calgary Flames are looking at their trade options for James Neal.

Neal, 31, was signed to a five year contract with a $5.75 million cap hit last summer, with the rationale being that he was a guy who had (a) consistently scored lots at the NHL level and (b) had been on a few lengthy playoff runs and could help put the maturing Flames team over the team. Instead, he: struggled to find a consistent spot in the lineup, was injured mid-season, was criticized by observers for a perceived lack of foot-speed, and was a healthy scratch for the Flames’ final playoff game. None of those are encouraging signs for a player with four seasons left on his contract.

Neal had just seven goals and 19 points in 2018-19, which would be 14 fewer goals than his previous career low of 21 and 18 fewer points than his previous career low of 37.

Now, don’t take “the Flames are looking at their options” as meaning that the Flames are trading Neal. That’s not necessarily true. But general manager Brad Treliving has a reputation as a man that does his homework, and you never know if a deal comes together that makes sense for a Flames team that (a) really would like to make a run at a championship over the next few seasons and (b) has a pretty tight salary cap situation heading into the summer.

More likely than not, the Flames would need to eat some of Neal’s salary, eat a bad contract from the other team, or send a nice asset with Neal to sweeten the deal to get a trade done. But it remains to be seen which of those options, if any, is palatable enough to Treliving for him to make a move. While Neal does carry a hefty cap hit, his contract does not have any trade or movement restrictions attached to it.

  • Puck Head

    Unfortunately with Neal it’s his skating which is poor – he’s lumbering and slow. If he trains he should be able to improve it a bit, but not enough to keep up. If we could find a trade partner and retain a chunk of his salary this would be the best. Even if we only walk away with $2M to spend it would be better spent on a rookie or two in the lineup.

    Watching him on the ice pisses me off when I know we have better, cheaper, options.

        • The Red Knight

          I’d say there’s a good chance Neal rebounds , I thought we over paid and too much term typical ufa contract but I was still fairly stoked we signed him , if Frolik gets traded we may be counting on him next season.

          • Bawcos

            I’m with you Red K. I thought similar to the signing especially the term. But perceived footspeed aside, I look at that 5% shooting for a guy who going in this season as a 12% career shooter, and can’t help but think give him another shot. Maybe with different linemates. Like a 3rd line of Mangiapane – Ryan – Neal.

      • freethe flames

        Turris 29 years old 4 years x $6m 23 points last year(played well at worlds)
        V Rask 26 3×4 only 9 points(played okay for BP)
        Opposo 31 4x6m 29 points
        Shattenkirk 2×6.65 29 points
        Callahan 1 x5.8 17 points
        I did not include Subban because he would be a cap killer and I did not include Lucic because he is Lucic.

        I could see a straight across move of Turris for Neal. The Preds probably have fond memories of him and he might be happy to go there.

        Rask might be worth the gamble and if nothing else his buyout would not be as bad, Maybe there is a package to be done: Zucker and Rask for Neal and Frolik and our 3rd rounder.

      • The Red Knight

        I think Frolik s contract has been pretty decent,maybe the one ufa contract that Trevling got right. Now if we get a decent pick in a trade for him ,Trevling wins that one hands down.

    • MDG1600

      Derzie underestimates the negative impact of Neals contract on turning the Flames in to a true contender. I am totally OK with packaging a Kylington or Jankowski level player in a trade to dump Neal. Getting Neals cap space back is more valuable.

  • Mitchell

    I’d be concerned if BT wasnt looking at trade options. However, I’d hate it if calgary paid some team to take him, but if calgary received certain other bad contracts I’d be fine with that. Victor Rask, alexander wennberg are examples of younger players with bad contracts I’d be fine with, but they might be longshots (specifically wennberg) who require extra pieces to obtain.

      • HOCKEY83

        Wennberg has proven over the last 3 seasons that he needs to play with quality players and get the ice time to produce…something he didn’t get quite as much of last season to the previous 2 seasons. Neal played his lowest minutes ever last season by a large margin with the flames and played with probably the lowest quality players since his second season in pittsburg 8 years ago. I don’t see any scenario with him playing further up the line up than 3rd or 4th line next season so as far as giving him another chance goes I’m betting that goes as well as this past season went…get rid of him at almost any cost if possible.

    • freethe flames

      I had forgotten Wennberg but yes he might be part of a solution; it would likely need to add a sweetener say a late round pick.(Columbus might want something as they gave up a lot of picks)

    • oilcanboyd

      No bad contracts in exchange for Neal. Keep him and see if he can do the work in the summer to get back in shape for next season…and some power skating instruction!

        • Speed Kills

          Not sure what there is to want in Wennberg? Worse #s than Fro and is going to get paid ~> $4,900,000 for the next 4 years… 6’2 196lbs, a Center/LHS
          Maybe he could be a Lindholm type diamond in the rough? But really, he looks more like a young Swedish Stajan with a bigger $$$ already.
          2014-15 / 68gp – 4g 16a (Not Torts)
          2015-16 / 69gp – 8g 32a
          2016-17 / 80gp – 13g 46a
          2017-18 / 66gp – 8g 27a
          2018-19 / 75gp – 2g 23a
          NHL Totals = 358gp – 35g 144a
          Meh…. #’s wise he would already be the Flames 6th Center if you include Bennett. I’d pass even if it was for Neal … Heck even Neal had 7 more goals this past year than Wennberg got.

          • Mitchell

            1. Hes young, and has been at or above .5ppg for three seasons of his five.
            2. He was being utilized differently by torts last year, and ended up having a down year.
            3. The above reasons make him a good candidate for having a bounce back season.
            The problem is neal has no value. You’re not going to get a decent player for him without giving away other assets. The only players you’re going to get is others with equally bad contracts or worse. However, if you can manage to get a player like wennberg who has the ability to bounce back it’s simply a no brainer.

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    0 for 2 for BT on the big free agent signings, I get the thinking behind them, but the dollar amounts and term are not so good, and have ended up hurting us more than helping

      • buts

        Stajan type production with more money paid out…..no way its a sweet spot. Frolik has zero hands a good skater he is and that’s all. The puck dies on his stick..

        • HOCKEY83

          Frolik was slightly better than a half point per game even with all the dicking around the coach put him through during the season and had one of his best seasons ever. Which is what he was originally paid to do…be as good or better than you’ve been in the past. The flames have had a pretty steady 4 years with Frolik. Can’t complain with Frolik.

  • everton fc

    We need to shed salary. So you don’t move Neal for another teams “Neal”.

    I’d be calling the Sens. Even if they sign Karlsson, they’ll need salary. Neal and a prospect to the Sens for one of their 2nds and maybe a guy like Duclair, and a prospect. Just thinking and typing out loud here.

    • cjc

      Yes to not taking cash back. But Ottawa could just spend money on their current RFAs, better UFAs and get to the floor without Neal. I don’t see it, especially after the way Duclair played after his trade.

      • HOCKEY83

        It’s not just ottawa. There are 7 teams out there that need salary to make the floor. Pick anyone and take a low round pick and pay half his salary…done

  • Rockmorton65

    Was listening to Friedman on the radio today and he made a comment about Lucic and Neal. I’m wondering if something might be there. Edm wants a scoring winger, Calgary wants toughness. Lucic had 20 points this year to Neal’s 19. Lucic’s contract is only 250k a year more than Neal’s, but it’s one year shorter.

    What about…Lucic & 8OA for Neal & 26OA?

    Would Edm drop 18 spots in the draft to get out of Lucic’s contract and upgrade their wing position? Like I said, I’m not sure how I feel about this, just a thought.

    On a completely unrelated topic, I may have hit my head earlier…I don’t remember. 😄

        • …Worth asking at this point is if anybody in recent memory remember somebody having a bounce back season after they failed at the eye test as bad as James Neil did this season? I can’t think of anybody..

      • Spider you muda&@#ker

        I heard Friedman on the fan aswell and Stienberg and Pinder were talking about it on the ride home today. Hopefully this isn’t one of those where theres smoke there’s fire things. I would rather take my chances with Neal and hope he can retain some of his scoring touch. He will never live up to this contract thats for sure but maybe give him one more year before trying to move him out for either a bad contract or assets.

      • Rockmorton65

        That’s something Tre could negotiate before completing the trade. Lucic would need to waive his NMC to come here. As I understand it, he then has the right to have it reinstated with the new team. Tre could, conceivably, convince him not to.

        Plus, he’s from BC. He could be interested in playing for Seattle. What if Tre could negotiate a deal where Seattle takes him? There are some possibilities there.

        • HOCKEY83

          I can see no scenario where Seattle would take lucic over other unprotected players that the Flames won’t be able to protect (who will be much better than lucic) unless the Flames offer Seattle their first round pick.

  • MDG1600

    Flames should do everything in their power to get rid of Neal this summer. He was not a happy camper when healthy scratched and I suspect he is going to become a problem in the dressing room next year. The young guys don’t need to listen to him piss and moan about the coaches.

  • oddclod

    He’ll never wear the Flaming C again. Tre admitted to being angry and needing to cool off. It’s all on Neal. The kids got intimidated sure, but that’s part of the process. Neal was supposed to be at least Nasty to play against. Tre won’t wait after the Brouwerplay fiasco. It’s over. Hell or High taxes.

  • Slowmo

    So no one is going to give Neal a chance prove himself one yr more or less isn’t really going to matter unless we get something back and it cost us nothing then relax and give him one more yr. Also BT stop with the Free agancy you suck at it;)

  • drogon

    Kyle Turris, only if the Predators retain some salary. He’s younger, skilled and a C, you never have too many of those. I doubt the Predators would do it without us adding an asset.

    • freethe flames

      Were you not just last week saying that Neal should have played on the first line. Based upon that I would have thought you would been wanting to give him another chance.

      • Skylardog

        Was totally joking here and as sarcastic as I could be. But I was serious about how Neal was handled last season. Having said that, I believe the relationship between Neal and the Flames is for all purposes done. Neal will not make his time here easy for the Flames to deal with and will basically make an early buyout the only option left for the Flames to eat an extremely bad contract that should never have been signed. I also believe he is untradeable unless you give up him and a better draft pick than you get coming back.

        I am getting to the point where I believe the Neal signing and coaching choices should spell the end of BT’s time as our GM. More to come later on a full explanation of why I believe it will prove to be the right decision. I have zero faith that BT will get done what must get done for this team to be a contender next season. Backslide is the result to the dismay of all that cheer our Flames on. Sad days ahead my friends.

        • BendingCorners

          Neal might bounce back but I doubt it. He could end up being sent to Stockton if Dube looks like an upgrade. When the new CBA comes in (possibly as early as next summer) Neal is the obvious candidate for a compliance buyout.
          As to BT’s performance and what changes the Flames need, I’m okay with most of what he’s done but I have no idea how he is going to add the necessary depth. The team has no generational players (sorry, WW) and will need some upgrades from somewhere.
          Looking forward to your write-up, even when I disagree I enjoy the quality.

        • Tkachuk'sLisp

          So the Flames’ chances at being a contender rest in the hands of James Neal? The team that got over 100 points this season when many counted them as a bubble team at the beginning of the season?

          I’m interested to see why you think that.

        • Porcupine at a balloon party

          Flames win Western Conference, hire a coach that got votes for Jack Adams and you think tree is getting fired? Not happening. We miss playoffs next year, then ya, I’m thinking his jobs in jeopardy. But even a first round exit and I don’t think Brad will be feeling heat (unless there’s serious regression).

  • Trevy

    Why not Neal for Quick? Both have 4 yrs left at almost the exact same cap hit. Quick also coming off a bad year but also with a bad team. Would serve as a great 1B goalie and looking to redeem himself

  • Puck Head

    If Neal is moved and scores 20 goals I could care less. It’s his +/- that will tell us if he’s bounced back. If he’s lucky he’ll land on a team with line mates that prop him up.

  • The GREAT WW

    Some team may take a chance that Neal had a bad year and trade for him……after 2 bad years he will be immovable; trade him now…..

    My biggest fear is that BT listens to Neal’s bs and trades away some of our good pieces because Neal isn’t impressed with them.

    Get that piece of garbage off the team ASAP!


  • Slowmo

    I doubt BT will dump him or his contract he will give Neal the benefit of the doubt like you said BT does his home work and BT knows there is a lot more to get out of Neal. BT is not afread to admit when he makes a mistake but I don’t think this is one of them 1 more season then we will see if this was a one off or Neal has lost a couple of steps and the High IQ in hockey Neal has. 1 more season

  • PlayitagainSam

    Should get Edmonton to eat some salary and trade for Lucic. Flames can make the playoffs but they will surely lose again in the first round because they have zero heart and zero grit. Lucic can still play physical , fight and was 7th in the league in hits. Hits are something no flames do except Bennett.