The St. Louis Blues reportedly feel a need to replace Ryan Reaves, and one player who they’re looking at to do so is 38-year-old Chris Neil.
When the St. Louis Blues dealt Ryan Reaves to the Pittsburgh Penguins during last week’s NHL Draft, many speculated that they’d fully embrace the finesse, skill-based approach all across the lineup that the Chicago Blackhawks have almost always employed and Mike Yeo’s Minnesota Wild teams utilized.
Fast forward a week, though, and it appears that the Blues are fixated on trying to replace Reaves, even if it’s with more of a traditional “enforcer,” as opposed to Reaves, who developed into more of a grinder rather than a fighter over his last couple seasons in St. Louis. On separate occasions this week, Blues insiders Lou Korac, Andy Strickland, and Jeremy Rutherford (around the 10-minute mark in the interview attached below) have mentioned 38-year-old former Ottawa Senators winger Chris Neil as a potential fit in St. Louis:
Neil, a 6-foot-1, 209-pound right wing, was once a rather useful offensive contributor, registering four seasons with double-digit goals and five with 20 or more points from 2005-06 to 2011-12. At this point, though, he’s strictly an agitator. While he had a career-low 63 penalty minutes over 53 games in 2016-17, Neil had just one goal and three assists with a minus-11 rating. Even factoring in the more offensively productive era of his career, he has just 250 points compared to 2,522 penalty minutes over 1,026 NHL games, so it’s safe to say he’ll be remembered as a tough guy more than anything.
Since the Blues have so many in-house options to take over Reaves’ spot, it’s difficult to understand why they would want to spend more money on a one-dimensional player like Neil, especially when it could potentially cost a guy like Zach Sanford an NHL roster spot. But if they feel that Vladimir Tarasenko‘s safety is at risk against grittier teams, then signing Neal and dressing him for 40-50 games against opponents that utilize bigger, tougher lineups wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.