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The Calgary Flames want to trade James Neal. There is no doubt about that.
They are heading for a cap crunch and the 31-year-old – fresh off a 19-point campaign – is pulling in $5.75 million annually. Not ideal.
Unfortunately, GM Brad Treliving looks to have just two options this summer. Neither of them are very enticing:
1) Keep Neal and hope he can provide some sort of value next season.
2) Trade Neal to another team looking to offload a disastrous contract, and hope you get the better of it.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recently touched on what the latter path might look like.
Eriksson has one less year on his contract, which is nice, but carries a cap hit of $6 million per. Yikes.
As bad as Neal's season went, I might prefer rolling the dice with him.
He averaged 14.38 attempts and 7.88 chances per 60 at 5v5. Those are respectable numbers – he was just sunk by a 4.6 SH% and 50IPP%, meaning he recorded a point on just half the goals he was on the ice for (he was at 69%, 68%, and 64% the three years prior).
By comparison, Eriksson averaged 8.98 attempts and 5.47 chances per 60 at 5v5. He somehow shot 9.5% and posted a 78.57 IPP%, his highest output since 2011-12. In other words, he was much luckier and still only put up 29 points while appearing in 81 games.
Eriksson hasn't recorded 30+ points since 2015-16 and is a couple of years older than Neal. If the Flames want to contend – they do – and get the most out of the money they're spending, I think they'd be better off with Neal on the roster than Eriksson.
But could there be another option?
The Flames would take on an extra $250K annually, and an extra year, in this scenario but I think Turris is more likely to contribute than Neal.
Although the same goal upside isn't there, Turris should be able to put up some points. He's also a better defensive player, and much better in transition (helping exit and enter the zone).
It's all about what the Flames wish to prioritize.
If they want someone to contribute and help them win in the very near future, Turris is probably the best bet. If they want to get out from a bad contract as soon as possible, Eriksson makes sense. If they wish to get *some* contribution in the coming years without adding any extra money or term, keeping Neal is the way to go.
Should those be the only options, I ultimately expect Neal to remain with the Flames. That said, this is definitely something worth monitoring.
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