James Neal earns NHL contract after strong preseason tryout.

Neal gets himself a contract.


The veteran's gamble has indeed paid off.

The St. Louis Blues have officially announced that they have signed forward James Neal to a one year National Hockey League contract following his very successful tryout with their organization. The deal will be a league minimum type contract, with Neal earning $750,000 over the one year term, so it is a relatively low risk proposition on the part of the Blues.

There were many who had doubts about whether or not the Blues would be able to extend him a contract offer even after a successful tryout, but in spite of those doubts Neal went ahead and agreed to a professional tryout offer with the Blues in the offseason. Presumably Neal had been unsuccessful in his attempts to secure an NHL contract, something that no doubt fueled his performance in the preseason.

You would have been hard pressed to make a case that Neal did not earn this new contract, scoring 4 goals for the Blues over the span of just 5 NHL preseason games. It was enough to make Neal the organization's leading scorer in the preseason, a pretty strong showing for a veteran player without an official contract.

That being said Neal's NHL career has been marred by speed bumps over the last several seasons after unsuccessful stints with both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. Neal failed to play up to his potential with both of those organizations and it remains to be seen how this new contract will play out over the course of a full NHL season.

It is unclear if the Blues intend to have Neal on their opening day roster, or if he will be waived prior to the start of the regular season where he would potentially be up for grabs. Neal is the kind of veteran player that has historically been favored by current Blues head coach Craig Berube, so I suspect that this means that he is likely to start the season on the Blues main roster but that is only speculation at this time.

If Neal can recapture any of the form that led him to a 40 goal season in Pittsburgh and a 30 goal season in Nashville this could prove to be a nice little signing for the Blues.