It could be 50-50. Maybe it’s 90-10 against. Regardless, there’s a chance James Neal returns to the Golden Knights.
General manager George McPhee confirmed Sunday the team remains in discussions with Neal and his agent about a new contract for the unrestricted free-agent forward.
“Yes, we’re still talking to James,” McPhee said at a news conference at City National Arena on the first day of NHL free agency.
Neal, who turns 31 in September, and the Knights figure to be at odds concerning the term length of any potential contract. That was the hang-up with free-agent winger David Perron, who departed for St. Louis.
Neal turned down a five-year, $25 million extension from the Knights during the season, according to the Calgary Sun. He reportedly was seeking a six-year contract, which could be tough to find in the current market.
John Tavares received the maximum seven years from Toronto, while 29-year-old James van Riemsdyk signed for five years in Philadelphia.
The Knights gave 32-year-old Paul Stastny a three-year contract Sunday.
James Neal is an attractive piece for a team looking for scoring,bite, 2 Cup Final Appearances,and experience. He’s looking for a 6yr Term. I’ve spoken to 3 teams with interest in him. @NHL @NHLNetwork .
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) July 1, 2018
Neal’s agent, Patrick Morris, told the Review-Journal on June 24 that “Common sense says that if (Neal is) not signed by July 1, he’s probably not coming back (to Vegas).”
But Neal also spoke after the season of his desire to remain with the Knights and appears to be making every effort to work out a deal with the team.
The Knights have almost $19 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.
Morris did not return text messages seeking comment.
“I love it here. I thought we had a great thing going here,” Neal said the day after the Knights’ Game 5 loss to Washington in the Stanley Cup Final. “Honestly I just want to win. I want to be part of a great team. I want to have fun coming to the rink every day. I got that here, so whatever it takes, hopefully we can work something out.
“I love a lot of things here, so it’s tough the way we go out, but like I said, we’ve got a lot to be proud of. Hopefully I can be part of this for a long time.”
Neal finished with 25 goals and 44 points in 71 games, reaching the 20-goal plateau for the 10th consecutive season.
He added six goals and 11 points during the postseason.
If Neal and the Knights are unable to come to terms, New Jersey has been mentioned as a possible landing spot. Another team reportedly kicking the tires on the three-time all-star is Minnesota.
Paul Fenton, the Wild’s recently hired general manager, previously was in Nashville’s front office. The Predators also have been linked with Neal, who played for the team from 2014 to 2107 before he was selected in the expansion draft.
Perron inked a four-year, $16 million deal with the Blues, and McPhee noted the two sides were unable to agree on the length of a contract.
“It came down to the term on that one,” McPhee said. “That was pretty clear.”
For Perron, this will be his third stint in St. Louis after being selected from the Blues in the expansion draft.
The 30-year-old had a career-high 50 assists and 66 points in 70 regular-season games with the Knights.
In the postseason, Perron had one goal and eight assists, but struggled with injury and illness.