James Neal is due for a raise.  How substantial that raise will be may not depend so much on what the Dallas Stars are willing to pay him as a restricted free agent, but how much quid another team may throw at him via an offer sheet.  Neal’s name has been lobbied about as a potential offer sheet target due mostly to the fact that Stars’ owner Tom Hicks is locked in a bankruptcy battle.  Although, the 22-year old Neal’s play over his first two NHL seasons warrants him a decent pay bump.

Neal is coming off of his second consecutive 20+ goal season, having potted 27 last year after a 24-goal performance in his rookie season of 2008-09.  At 6’2″ and 210 pounds, Neal has the makings of a NHL power forward.  His detractors would like to see a little more physicality and two-way play out of that big body, but the offensive production from the former Plymouth Whalers winger has come as a bit of surprise to everyone.  He was perhaps the Stars most efficient scorer with a Goals/60 of 1.22, good enough for best on the club.  Now Joe Nieuwendyk finds himself in the position of trying to gauge Neal’s worth, while trying not to low-ball him into a state of discontent.

Statistically speaking, Neal’s production over two seasons is comparable to that of San Jose’s Joe Pavelski.  That’s about where comparisons should stop, at this point.  Pavelski is three years older than Neal and proved his value in the playoffs as one of the few Sharks that stood out during their run to the Conference Finals.  For his contribution, Pavelski was awarded with a 4-year $16 million deal.  The Stars are more likely to table a “bridge” contract to Neal similar to the one given to Loui Eriksson following the 2007-08 season.

James Neal’s value to the Stars is increasing as the days change, and with Mike Ribiero’s name floating around as a potential trade candidate he should be all the more integral to their plans moving forward.  There’s very little to be had in the way of free agent wingers that can make a offensive impact, which could force some teams in search of top-six forwards to do so via trade or an offer sheet.  Once the Ilya Kovalchuk saga comes to an end it probably won’t be long before the likes of Alexander Frolov, Lee Stempniak, and Marek Svatos come off the board.  Dallas’ financial vulnerability could very easily be exploited by teams in search of offensive wingers, making James Neal a highly sought after commodity.

So what road will the Stars take in negotiations with Neal?  Will they seek to please him with a long-term deal or slip him a more financially palatable 2-year deal?  If a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins sign him to a lucrative offer sheet, will the Stars allow him to walk?

Comments (18)

  1. he would be a great fit for the penguins and there set for a while so i dont think they would really miss the draft picks, svatos might be a nice winger for malkin too

  2. dont be surprised to see him in the blue and white. i think burke would love to heave someone like neal as a leaf.

  3. Except the Leafs can’t make a substantial enough offer sheet. No first round draft choice.

    Honestly, if someone gave Neal a big enough offer, I’d be tempted to let him walk if I were the Stars. It’s pretty obvious that the team’s got a lengthy, painful rebuilding process coming up, and they could use the first round picks for that. I mean, there’s no way they can re-sign Brad Richards if this bankruptcy thing is still ongoing, and they’re a Kari Lehtonen injury from using Andrew Raycroft as their starting goaltender, which you just know is going to be a disaster. If somebody gives Neal $4 million+ in an offer sheet, take the draft picks and trade all the veterans you can, get this painful rebuilding process started.

  4. Michael you are just another moron leafs fan who thinks just because you hear a players name, he will be going to Toronto. Joe Pavelski’s name was also mentioned in that report as well. Maybe you think he is going to Toronto too. I love reading the comments from the Leaf fans…they are all so ridiculous.

  5. HabsChamp why don’t you go pound another poutine. At least the Leafs have a GM that isn’t legally retarded and dumb enough to trade there best goalie for shit. Neal to the Leafs could very well happen but with a trade rather then an offer sheet.

  6. Benjamin-

    I’ll agree that HabsChamp’s comment was pretty inane, but yours is hardly better.
    First, you have no clue what you’re talking about regarding the Halak trade.
    Second, the Leafs have nothing of any interest for trades – Kulemin has no value, despite what every Leafs fan would love to think.
    Third, please wait for Burke to actually do something intelligent instead of just sounding so, before you fall over yourself. This hasn’t happened yet.

  7. Habs and Leafs fan fighting in the comments, this is just like real life. I may be in the minority, but I like that the Canadiens went with Price. Time will tell, or it may just make me look silly.

  8. Scott-

    Figured the internet was slowly drifting away from real life these days… hence the Habs/Leafs trash-talking.

  9. Just defending a fellow blue and white brother from delusional Hab’s fans.

    James, your ignorance of the Leaf roster greatly outweighs my “no clue” of the Halak trade. Halak, a #1 starting goalie was traded to St. Louis for two prospects who may or may not make the NHL. The Blues clearly won this trade. As for the Leafs; Kulemin isn’t going anywhere right now and has more trade value then you want to admit. Burke has actually done lots of “intelligent” things in his 20 months as GM like blowing up an absolutely terrible Leafs roster, drafting Nazem Kadri, and bringing in a captain and superstar in Phaneuf. And if I’m going to be falling over I’ll make sure your right there to break my fall.

  10. OK OK OK Burke may not be legally retarded but leafs fans sure are…..Flyers fan by the way

  11. If we are legally retarded, then your in the same damn boat as us for being a Flyers fan.

  12. I just feel sorry for Leaf fans these days. I have friends who are Leaf fans, it’s not like they’re especially misguided or unintelligent people. But the Kessel trade was pretty clearly a year too soon; if Burke were dealing two firsts and a second this summer for, say, Bobby Ryan, a pretty comparable player to Kessel, after drafting Tyler Seguin second overall, the Leafs actually look like a decent team next season and for the future, with Seguin, Kadri and Bozak as their top three centres and with the Phaneuf and Versteeg trades. But because Burke jumped the gun by a year with that move, they don’t look anything of the sort. Instead, they look like a team that might finish anywhere from 8-15 in the east in 2011, might be a playoff bubble team for 2-3 years after that, and will probably be tearing it all down and starting from scratch again, either with Burke or someone else at the helm.

  13. Haters every last one of ya… our time will come, and we will be the ones talking shit while the rest of you are stuck with your thumbs up your ass.

  14. Maple Leaf fans ARE, however, the greatest repository of misguided blind faith this side of the Catholic Church.

  15. Oh Benjamin, i have been hearing “our time will come” or “next year will be our year” from all you maple leaf fans ever since i was a kid and first started watching hockey. The leafs will always be a losing franchise. Its time to jump ship.

  16. Benjamin-

    Let me get this clear… the Habs got 2 prospects for Halak, which is bad because we don’t know if they’ll ever make it. But Burke drafts Kadri, who has played all of 1 NHL game (Eller has played 7, just as a comparison) so really we don’t know if he’ll make it, and that’s a good move? Typical Leafs fan logic = blind adoration for Burke.

    Phaneuf is a superstar?? Jesus, I didn’t think you could go any lower, but you just did… Maybe he’s C material, maybe not – a full season should tell. But he’s not an elite player, for sure.

    True, Burke did blow up a terrible Leafs roster… to replace it with a slightly less terrible Leafs roster. That’s something, I guess.

    I’ll admit one thing… I’ll be rooting for the Leafs this year, partly – I really don’t want to see another top 5 pick to Boston’s way.

  17. Honestly. I love living in Toronto, minus the Leafs.

    Leaf fans are easily major sports biggest on going joke. I think we should pair up with the Cubs and just shut it down.

    The sh*t that spews from the mouths of Leafs fans is sub-intelligent. It’s the equivalent to people who ‘like’ talk while trying to convince people around them they’re smart.

    MLSE is an incredible organization because they’ve tapped a market or morons who whole heartedly believe ‘this is the year’, without doing a thing. How many pro sports teams sell out every night as a long term basement team? None, with exception to the Leafs. Kudos MLSE.

    Blow me Leafs fans.

  18. Brian P – hey, way to slander one billion people at a shot! Talk puck, and leave the religion (and politics, too, for that matter) out of it.

    Benjamin – love that you love your team, but realize: EVERY team thinks their prospects and players are teh awsum and can’t believe otherwise until they see them score five goals in three seasons. Vesa Toskala even had a decent year as a starter. How is Halak for Eller and a guy a terrible trade for the Habs? Based on two playoff rounds? For all you know the guy is about to turn into Byron Dafoe.

    Burke won in Anaheim; he gets some benefit of the doubt. Just don’t break out the popsicles just yet. Jeff Finger still makes $4 million this year.

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