After accruing 1,026 regular season games, 112 goals, 250 points and 2,522 minutes in penalties, Chris Neil’s playing career might be over.
According to Postmedia‘s Bruce Garrioch, the veteran Senators forward met with general manager Pierre Dorion and assistant general manager Randy Lee on Monday and was told that “there’s no sense bringing him back if he’s not going to play and isn’t going to be happy with his role under (Guy) Boucher.”
Neither that the Senators were prepared to move on or that Neil was unhappy with his role should come as a surprise.
For the first time since the formative years of his career, the soon-to-be 38-year old Neil was frequently made a healthy scratch under Boucher.
Injuries and healthy scratches limited Neil to 53 games and career lows in goals (one) and points (four). This ineffectiveness led to Boucher encouraging management at the deadline to acquire depth at the trade deadline and the additions of Tommy Wingels, Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg helped cement Neil’s place in the press box.
Neil apparently wants to continue playing for one more year. His agent, Todd Reynolds, confirmed to Garrioch that Neil “wants to play and still believes he can play and he wants to try to play for another year.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Neil’s availability will generate much interest on the open market. Fighting no longer has the same place in the game and it’s not like Neil’s capable of bringing anything more than intangibles to the table at this point of his career.
Neil’s career began in 1998 when he was drafted in the sixth round (161st overall) and he has spent 15 seasons playing for the Senators.
If this is it for him, at least fans can appreciate the fact that Neil worked his ass off to get the most out of his limited talent that he could. For a third and fourth line aggressor to amass the volume of games played that he did for one club speaks volumes. I fully expect him to return to Ottawa and rejoin the organization once his playing days are over.
Karlsson Undergoes Surgery:
According to a media release, the Senators announced that Erik Karlsson underwent surgery today to repair torn tendons in his left foot.
In the release, general manager Pierre Dorion wrote:
“Erik underwent surgery earlier today in Charlotte, N.C, to repair torn tendons in his left foot. The tears, which occurred during this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, were found during an MRI as part of an extensive medical evaluation following the season.”
“The recovery from this surgery is expected to take approximately four months. This timeline leaves us hopeful that Erik will be fully recovered and healthy to start the 2017-18 regular season.”
I liked the offseason better when Dorion mentioned in his end of the season media availability that he didn’t anticipate any players having to undergo surgery this summer. With Derick Brassard (shoulder) and now Karlsson going under the knife, it will be interesting to see how much their respective injuries will affect their offseason training. Both players could potentially be without two of their better players to start the season. For a team that relies on the margins to win, the Senators can ill afford to have either player be unavailable or take time to work off the rust.
I’m not a medical doctor, so I have no idea whether any of these injuries are interrelated, but Karlsson’s left foot is the same one that had its Achilles tendon partially severed by Matt Cooke’s skate.
Senators Will Not Qualify Matt O’Connor
Just like the Senators’ 2015-16 home opener, Matt O’Connor was not qualified then and he apparently won’t be qualified now. Without a qualifying contract offer, the goaltender will now be allowed to test unrestricted free agency.
After signing with the Senators as a collegiate free agent after his career at Boston University, O’Connor spent the bulk of his Senators career in the minors.
O’Connor had two uneventful seasons in Binghamton, but he’ll forever be remembered for starting the Senators’ home opener on October 11, 2015. Shortly before gassing his head coach at the end of the 2015-16, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk infamously referred to Dave Cameron’s lineup decisions as “stupid” before hilariously citing O’Connor’s start as an example of it.