Since the moment that Dany Heatley’s trade request became public knowledge, Chris Neil has easily been one of the most candid and outspoken teammates. And just as he’s engaged in any on-ice fight, Neil hasn’t pulled any punches.
“We want guys who want to be in a Senators uniform. We’ve got a good thing here. I stayed here because it’s a great organization, a nice city and they’ve bent over backwards to accommodate all of us.
Other teams do that as well, but they go above and beyond their duties here to make the players comfortable. You can’t say enough about that. They brought (Heatley) in from Atlanta and gave him a fresh start. Dany had some good years here, and if he’s not happy here, then move on, get out of Dodge and don’t look back.” ~ Chris Neil, One Smug Fuck, courtesy The Ottawa Sun
If you haven’t paid much attention, let me explain — In Chris Neil’s line of thought, having his employer trade Dany Heatley makes him come off smelling like roses. Now understand, to this point, Chris Neil has been a career Ottawa Senator. It’s the only professional organization that he’s ever known. Unlike Dany Heatley, he’s never asked for a trade and when he had the opportunity to leave as an unrestricted free agent this summer, he opted to sign a new four year contract that should see him sporting that three-dimensional trojan head on his jersey for a long time.
Given these circumstances, some narrow-minded or casual Senators fans are probably relishing the fact that Neil has ran some smack. Personally, I can’t fucking stand it.
Like many fans, since the news that Heatley had been dealt to San Jose, I have put pen to paper scribbling out some various line combinations. By bringing Michalek and Cheechoo into the fold, Ottawa’s depth at the forward position is exceptional. With Kovalev, Cheechoo and Shannon ahead of him, Neil’s likely destination appears to be that highly coveted fourth line right-wing position. (My apologies to Sloth Donovan.) Now, on paper this isn’t bad, but when you examine Neil’s cap hit, it’s slightly disconcerting as no fourth line player should gross $2M per season. It’s egregious.
Neil will remind fans that he left money on the table to stay in Ottawa because this is where he wants to stay. At the time, TSN reported that Neil was offered a four year deal from the New York Rangers that averaged $2.3M per season. But given that the cost of living in New York is higher than it is in Ottawa, and given the fact that Neil already has permanent residence in Ottawa, isn’t it safe to say that Neil probably would have banked more money by staying put?
I’m not intending to shit on Neil or his salary with this piece. I personally don’t have any problem with Neil or the style and physicality that his presence brings to the Senators lineup. Nor do I shit on Chris Neil’s right to negotiate his price on the NHL’s open market. He put in his time and he deserved the opportunity to do so. What I do have a problem with this facade of having organizational loyalty. If this were truly the case, why would Neil even enter into contractual negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs? And similarly, if he truly felt he was doing us a favour, why not take a legitimate home-town discount that would allow Bryan Murray to allocate more money into improving the rest of the roster.
If Neil really wants to feel appreciated, he needs to have a banner year. 10 goals, an 82-0 fight record and numerous Chris Drury’esque hits sounds about right. And if he can’t match these numbers, the very least he could do insult the educated fans with references to loyalty. Or better yet, don’t remind us that he signed a new deal. Nobody should want to be reminded of the terms of his contract.