Early on Sunday morning, among all the trade deadline talk and rumours, the Pittsburgh Penguins slammed down some contract extension news and it wasn't in order to save the speculation on a player possibly on the way out.
No, the Penguins have announced that they have re-signed scoring forward James Neal to a new 6-year contract extension, reportedly worth $30 million.
Neal has been huge in the Penguins ability to tread water in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the team goes into Sunday's action in 5th place, just short of being in 4th.
In 58 games this season, Neal has scored 30 goals and added 26 assists, just a shade under a point-per-game scoring pace, which is good enough to be 22nd in pool scoring, going into action on Sunday. Neal would be considered a 1st round pick in this year's draft, if we were to do it all over again today, according to the numbers. That's a major impact on a team and on a season, that Neal has had and this contract extension is well-earned.
Neal was acquired by the Penguins from Dallas around this time last season for defenseman Alex Goligoki and both teams have now re-signed the key pieces of this deal, both happy with the results from each player, although team successes are quite different at the moment.
Well, if the Penguins are going to add another significant scorer to their roster for only $5 million against the cap for the next six years, I would say they did a pretty good job. According to my list, I now have the Penguins projected totals for the 2013 season at $55.3 million for 16 players, assuming that Sidney Crosby will be healthy for the year. The 16 players include nine forwards, six defensemen and a goalie, which is a fairly solid core, which would leave them with about $9 million (against this year's cap number) to fill out some depth players, mostly up front. I think that puts the Penguins in pretty good shape for the Summer.
None, really. This does give us the opportunity to put a pin in Neal's name, giving us a quick reminder that we might want to look into him at an earlier time at next season's draft. Neal will likely be an important player, when the playoff pool rolls around, I would think that he may get awfully popular this year. Even without Crosby in the line-up, the Penguins do figure to have a good shot at making the second round of the playoffs, if not a little further.