James Neal knows that to score goals, in the NHL, you have to be tenacious. After being bought out by the Edmonton Oilers at the end of last season, he used that same tenacity during his off-season workouts to help land him a new job.
His efforts paid off today when he inked a $750,000 contract for one year with the St. Louis Blues to go with the $1.9 Millon he is earning from the buy-out. During the preseason, Neal established himself as a character and a veteran presence that the team just might be missing.
Robert Bortuzzo, when asked if Neal’s character was the same as Pat Maroon, stated “Different, but a character, nonetheless. Our game’s unique in that matter that there are guys out there you’ll hear stories about, and you’ll remember. He’s been on a lot of winning teams for a reason.” According to a Tweet by NHL.com’s Lou Korac.
Bortuzzo mentioned Neal is a character. Does he rival what Pat Maroon brought: "Different, but a character nonetheless. Our game's unique in that matter that there's guys out there you'll hear stories about and you'll remember. He's been on a lot of winning teams for a reason."
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) October 9, 2021
“He’s a character. I truly believe in this game it’s good to have characters in your locker room,” Bortuzzo continued. “Guys who have seen some things, guys who want to keep it light, guys who can raise the intensity of games who’s been through a lot.”
Bortuzzo's best answer on Neal: "He's a character. I truly believe in this game it's good to have characters in your locker room, guys who have seen some things, guys who want to keep it light, guys who can raise the intensity of games who's been though a lot." #stlblues
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) October 9, 2021
Neal led the Blues with four goals in five games, tying for third in points behind Robert Thomas, Bortuzzo, and Pavel Buchnevich. During the last preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Neal seemed to be all over the ice and that translated itself into the one-year deal.
The NHL roster deadline is Monday, October 10 at 5 PM Eastern standard. All teams must have a roster of 23 men or fewer and be Cap Compliant.
Ellis, Joshua, and Perunovich to the AHL.
Besides signing Neal, who was on a PTO, to the one-year deal, they also sent three players to the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds. The Blues announced through NHL.com that they had assigned goaltender Colton Ellis, forward Dakota Joshua, and defenseman Scott Perunovich to the AHL.
Perunovich, the 2020 Hobey Baker award winner, had a good preseason and was challenging for the seventh defenseman role. He could be one of the first Thunderbirds to be recalled if needed on the Blues defense.
Joshua, the center who appeared in 12 games last season, also had a productive preseason and prospects tournament. The assignment to the AHL could help him mature and strengthen his grit, which is needed for the Bluenote.
Ellis, 21, performed well during both the prospects tournament and the NHL preseason. He will challenge goalie Joel Hofer for the number three spot on the Blues’ depth chart.
The current roster now sits at 26 players. However, Oskar Sundqvist will most likely be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).
MacEachern and Brown placed on waivers.
Full list of today's NHL waivers: John Moore (BOS), Chris Wagner (BOS), Byron Froese (CGY), Justi Kirkland (CGY), Calvin Pickard (DET), Thomas Hickey (NYI), Richard Panik (NYI), Anthony Angello (PIT), Dylan Gambrell (SJ), Logan Brown (STL), Mackenzie MacEachern (STL) …
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 9, 2021
MacEachern, 27, played 21 games last season and has 101 games in his NHL career. He scored just one goal last season and has 11 total in his career. Drafted in the third round 67th overall in the 2012 Entry Draft, he was out of exemptions.
The Blues acquired Brown, son of former Blues defenseman Jeff Brown, in a preseason trade with the Ottawa Senators for Zach Sanford and a conditional third-round pick. Brown was one of five St. Louisans taken in the first round of the 2016 Entry Draft. While taken with the 11th overall pick, Brown has only seen 30 games in the NHL scoring nine points (1G, 8A).
Many in the fanbase had hoped Brown would latch on and continue in his father’s footsteps. Brown, while only 22, is out of exemptions because of his many reassignments during his tenure with the Senators.
Clifford, the two-time Stanley Cup champion, is on the second of a two-year deal with St. Louis. He will most likely play on the fourth line and is expected to bring a little toughness and grit. Clifford, 30, played in 15 games last season registering seven points, 30 penalty minutes, and a minus -5 rating.
Kostin, 22, played in the KHL last season, winning the KHL championship. He was drafted in the first round 31st overall in the 2017 Entry Draft, in which the Blues acquired the pick from Pittsburgh, along with Sundqvist, for fan-favorite Ryan Reaves. Kostin has played in just six games in the NHL, registering just two points.
Neighbors, 19, has been highly visible during training camp. “Same stuff I’ve been seeing all camp with him.” head coach Craig Berube said after the last pre-season game. “He just is on the puck everywhere – makes little plays all over the ice. A very intelligent hockey player. He’s got a nose for the puck. It’s impressive. High-character guy. High hockey IQ.”
Because Neighbors is only 19, the Blues cannot assign him to the AHL. He will not turn 20 until March 29, 2022. He can play up to nine games in the NHL and not lose a year of eligibility. It is likely he will get those nine games but then would be re-assigned to his Junior’s club, the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The last blues player to be sent down to the juniors was Alex Pietrangelo, who did it twice. Playing eight games and nine games respectfully.
During the last preseason game, Neighbors was on the fourth line with Ivan Barbashev and Tyler Bozak. He had one point, assisting on Bozak’s goal, and was a +2. He also registered one shot, two hits and lost his only faceoff.
The Blues will not open the season until October 16 in Denver, against the Avalanche. The Blues home opener will be against the Los Angeles Kings on October 23. The blues also play the Arizona Coyotes and the Los Vegas Golden Knights before facing the Kings.
The Blues are off until Monday, 11 October, when they will travel to Vail, Colorado for a team-building exercise. Teams have been unable to hold events like this since March 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit in full strength.
Till Next time Hockey fans,
I am Bleeding Blue wit ya.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing