Examining James Neal’s future in Pittsburgh & Three Trade Scenario’s

neal Inside Pittsburgh Sports has polled scouts and executives on 5 players from the Penguins NHL roster that are top trade candidates this summer.
On who has the most trade value?
James Neal won the poll receiving 3 of 5 votes with Paul Martin coming in at second, receiving 2 of 5 votes.
Talk among executives is that Kris Letang’s trade value is a “complete unknown” right now.
Today we examine James Neal’s future in Pittsburgh and his potential trade value.

1. James Neal – Age 26
Cap Hit: $5 million | Signed Through: 2017-2018
Clauses: None for 2014-2015 season
*NTC kicks in on July 1, 2015*
Is James Neal’s act getting old? He’s a player from a character standpoint that Penguins ownership group feels is part of the problem right now, multiple sources say.
Neal has one of those personalities, attitude problems where many inside the organization cast doubts that a new coach would be able to get him to play with more discipline to his game. One feeling on Neal is that he is what he is.
Red flags again surfaced for Neal in the post-season as he took a number of unnecessary penalties and the immaturity and arrogance in his game still hasn’t gone away. One knock on Neal is he struggles to create his own shot and that was a problem for him when he wasn’t playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Without Malkin or Crosby he was an ordinary player.
Neal who had just two goals in the playoffs, has now not scored in 31 of 38 playoff games during his Penguins career.
All that said, the Penguins are in a bit of a tough spot with Neal. This is an ownership group who feels former GM Ray Shero didn’t have enough help around Crosby and Malkin. You have to find the right deal for Neal as 40 goal scorers don’t grow on trees.
If ownership is determined to move Neal like some believe they could end up being in an attempt to change the dynamic of the room, Neal might not get back another 40 goal scorer in a trade but the Penguins could land more complete players who play a different style of game in the top-6/top-9.
NHL types I’ve spoken with all strongly feel despite the red flags, Neal will be a player highly sought after (if he is made available to teams).
A senior advisor with an Eastern Conference team weighed in on Neal.
“Is he a player you build around? I’d lean in direction of no but I like him,” the senior advisor said. “Goal scorers are at a premium {right now}, he has a good contract and is at the right age.”
One feeling about Neal among scouts seems to be that he’s become too much of a perimeter player on the right side and has gone away from getting to the tough areas.
A Western Conference scout who spoke very highly of Neal, said a switch back to “left wing” should be a consideration from whichever team Neal is playing for next season. “I saw a {more} hard nosed player in Dallas,” the scout said of Neal.
What could Neal’s value be on the trade block this summer?

1. James Neal, Simon Despres to Tampa Bay for Teddy Purcell, Brett Connolly, 2014 1st round pick (17th overall)
Analysis: Tampa Bay was a team one executive floated out there in regards to Neal as there is chatter that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman who is said to be a fan of Neal’s, covets an elite scorer with Marty St. Louis now in New York. In this proposal, the deal sends James Neal and Simon Despres to Tampa Bay for Teddy Purcell, Brett Connolly and a 2014 first round pick (17th overall). In Purcell the Penguins get a lesser goal scorer than Neal but a more complete player with excellent size who adds in other areas. Purcell would also give the Penguins a right handed shot down low on the power play, something scouts often contend they lack.
Purcell, 28, is signed for two more years with a $4.5 million cap hit.
A swap of Despres for Connolly is two high upside young players who need a change of scenery. Connolly was the 6th overall pick in the 2010 entry draft but has yet to find a regular role in the NHL, similar to Despres who was the Penguins first round pick in 2009.
Both are restricted free agents.
Connolly had 21 goals and 56 points in 65 games with the Syracuse Crunch. In 2012-2013, he had 31 goals, 63 points in 71 games for the Crunch. Connolly has 6 goals and 11 assists in 84 career NHL games with the Lightning.
The Penguins have a significant need for young forwards with top-6 potential.
In addition to receiving Purcell and Connolly, the Penguins receive a 2014 first round pick, 17th overall from the Lightning under this proposal. Tampa Bay has two first round picks.
The Penguins have just one draft choice among the first 112 selections in the 2014 draft.

2. James Neal to Edmonton for David Perron, Mitch Moroz

Analysis: When I floated James Neal’s name to scouts, executives last week for responses on what Neal’s trade value could be, a name I’ve heard back more than once as an ideal target is Oilers winger David Perron.
The Oilers are very high on Perron but are looking to rebuild their top-6 with different type of players as they have too many of the same.
Perron, 25, has two years left on his contract with a cap hit of $3.812 million. He had 28 goals and 57 points in 78 games for the Oilers in 2013. A complete player who’s a top-2 line winger, Perron fits three key characteristics in his game the Penguins are likely to be seeking in any James Neal trade; Speed, grit and strong character.
The book on Perron is that he has all those qualities. He’s a very creative winger who can play both wings and would be great in the Penguins room which is lacking a lot of character.
In addition to Perron, the Penguins also receive prospect Mitch Moroz, a big power forward winger at 6-3, 215, who was the Oilers 2012 second round pick. Penguins scouts have seen a lot of Moroz over the last couple years, as he is a teammate of Penguins draft pick Tristan Jarry with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Moroz had 35 goals in the regular season this year for the Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

3. James Neal to Winnipeg for Evander Kane
Analysis: This is a trade scenario I’m sure that is already getting mentioned in a lot of circles. Is it a realistic possibility? No one around the league has a good feel on that one but it might depend on other pieces going the other way.
However, the sense I’ve been getting in the early stages is that Neal could be very intriguing to Jets management that has a lot of pressure on them, possibly even as a straight swap.
Kane like Neal is under contract through the 2017-2018 season with a cap hit of $5.25 million. For a budget team like the Jets, every dollar counts, and Kane is owed $24 million over the next four years, $20 million for Neal.
Kane’s in need of a change of scenery and has superstar potential and is a completely different player than Neal. He would give Pittsburgh a real power forward with great potential. Kane, though, has underachieved with 19 goals and 41 points this season.
When the talk of Kane, Blake Wheeler, and Andrew Ladd being of interest to the Penguins came out this past winter, the buzz was it would take a significant offensive player for the Jets to move Ladd, Kane, or Wheeler and at the time the two sides were never a match and it’s believed there were no substantive trade talks.
The Jets, though, still make a lot of sense on several fronts.
When it comes to the Penguins completely wanting to change the room, Andrew Ladd would be a start. What the Penguins are desperately lacking is a Bill Guerin type in the room who wasn’t scared to tell Sidney Crosby how it is. Talking to people around the league, they feel Ladd wouldn’t be afraid to be that player.
Crosby, though, became sick of Guerin’s act late in the 2009-2010 season, sources said at the time.
The Penguins would be hard pressed to move Neal without a top-6 player coming the other way but what about a potential trade fit in St. Louis?
Blues GM Doug Armstrong is rumored to not being against putting top pairing defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in play in return for a premier goal scorer. Something to remember come draft time but unlikely Ken Hitchcock would be a big fan of Neal’s lack of consistent effort in the defensive zone.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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