For the first time since the 1994/1995 season, none of Alfredsson, Phillips or Neil will be playing next season for the Sens. News broke Wednesday that Chris Neil would not be returning to play in an Ottawa jersey next season. The 37 year old winger decided that he would like to play another season, however there is no space for him on the Sens roster. His agent did say however that when Neil eventually retires he will most likely stay in Ottawa with his family.
Neil was drafted by the Senators in the sixth round, 161st overall, of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Neil spent two seasons with Ottawa’s then-American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he posted back-to-back seasons of 300+ penalty minutes and established himself as a solid team player at the professional level. Chris Neil made his NHL debut on October 3, 2001, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The next night, he recorded his first NHL point in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. On October 30, he scored his first NHL goal, against the Atlanta Thrashers. In his rookie season, Neil appeared in 72 games and scored 17 points, while accumulating 231 penalty minutes and establishing himself as a fearless combatant. In the 2005/2006 season, Neil posted his best offensive totals of his career with 16 goals and 33 points. On September 14, 2013, Neil was awarded the role of Alternate Captain. The very next year Chris Neil scored his 100th career goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However since the 2014/2015 season, Neil has been playing a declining role as he has struggled with injuries and diminishing skills. Chris Neil finished his 15 seasons with the Sens with a total of 1026 games, 112 goals and 250 points. He amassed 2,522 penalty minutes.
Personally, Chris Neil was always one of my favourites. Whether it was his constant smiling while agitating opponents or smashing people’s faces with his fist, Neil always provided an entertaining game for fans. As a Sens fan, I always felt a savage pride when Neil took matters into his own hands and protected the team. Every time I went to Sens games, I always took note of all the fans in a Neil jersey. He was a fan favorite and he will be greatly missed, Thank you Neil for an awesome career and best of luck in the future!