Neal talks still on the backburner for now
24 year old James Neal has emerged as the one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL, just at the perfect time as Neal is a restricted free agent at seasons end. With Neal emerging as a 5+ millionÂ a yearÂ player, there is a sense around the Penguins that they need and should try to lock up Neal right now. The Penguins though continue to take a cautious approach.
Sources directly involved in the negotiations confirm this morning that the Penguins have yet to establish any kind of timetable for talks with Neal’s reps Pat Morris (lead negotiator) and Don Meehan of Newport Sports, and as we enter the second half of the season, no new discussions have taken place since GM Ray Shero reached out to Neal’s camp in late October indicating that the team is prepared to take care of Neal at the right time.
Neal ranks 4th in the NHL with 21 goal and his 36 points are second on the team.
Sources indicate that the Penguins have still not decided whether they will engage in negotiations during the season with Neal. The CBA, and the team not having a good idea yet of what the cap might be in 2012-2013, could be factors.
Pittsburgh has around $54 million committed to salaries in 2012-2013.
Repping one of the top RFA’s is not a new thing for Morris and Meehan who are widely regarded as two of the best agents in the business and recent history suggest that negotiations with Neal will be a tough and long negotiation. Neal in fact is no stranger to holding out for a deal until training camp.
Some recent examples of prolonged negotiations for top RFA’s repped by Newport sports agency.
— Negotiations between Ducks GM Bob Murray and Meehan went all the way until September 2010 when Bobby Ryan, 23 at the time, finally agreed to a five year – $25.5 million contract on September 14, 2010..
— Negotiations between the Kings and star defenseman Drew Doughty, an restricted free agent at the time, was another prolonged negotiation between the Kings and Doughty’s reps at Newport Sports. After holding out of training camp, Doughty and the Kings reached a $56 million deal over eight years on September 29, 2011.
— Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist, another Newport client who was a restricted free agent in summer of 2010, didn’t reach a three-year, $9.25 million contract until August 24, 2010.
— Coming off a 27 goal season following the 2009-2010 season, Neal was among the hottest restricted free agents in the summer of 2010 and negotiations between Neal and the Dallas Stars went all the way until mid-September, right before training camp opened. Neal finally reached a two year deal on September 17, 2010.
Morris when asked about the status of those taks, denied to say whether the Stars financial situation played any part in Neal almost holding until training camp.
*The Penguins have also yet to engage in any contract talks with two other RFA’s, defenseman Matt Niskanen, and forward Joe Vitale, reps for both players confirmed.
* Going into the trade deadline, top prospects Simon Despres, Joe Morrow and Beau Bennett are off limits and regarded as untouchables in the Penguins system. You can probably add Scott Harrington to that group also.
*A few Tuesday practice notes: Defenseman Paul Martin is fully expected to return to the lineup Friday night, which prompted the decision to be send down Simon Despres earlier this week. Martin is skating for the second straight day.
*Arron Asham (knee) is not participating in practice for the second straight day. He has swelling on his knee. Pascal Dupuis is also missing from practice. The extent of his upper body injury remains unknown.