The Nashville Predators are a team that is need of consistent offense. They took a step to remedying that problem by acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
In Neal, the Predators pick up a player that has produced a point per game in two of his last three seasons, and has scored 20 goals or more in each of his NHL seasons. Last season, Neal had 27 goals and 34 assists in 59 games.
Neal has played 413 NHL games, tallying 315 points (161G-154A) and picking up 349 penalty minutes. Neal brings some snarl to the Predators forwards, but has stepped over the line on occasion, picking up suspensions for questionable hits. The Predators can use his grit and end energy, but he has to play in control to be effective.
There is no doubt that Neal has benefitted from playing on a talented Pens team, and it remains to be seen if he can be as productive with the Predators.
The Predators gave up Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to pick up Neal. Hornqvist had 53 points (22G-31A) in 76 games last season for the Predators. Hornqvist has been a heart and soul player for the Predators and scored many (most) of his goals in the hard area in front of the net. Spaling was a versatile depth player for the Predators that could play center or wing and had 32 points (13G-19A) in 71 games.
Neal has three years remaining on his contract that pays him $5 million per year. Hornqvist has 4 years left on his contract that pays him 4.25 million per year. Spaling is a restricted free agent and was paid $1.5 million last season.
The acquisition of Neal represents a bold move for Poile. In trading Hornqvist and Spaling, Poile has moved players he drafted for a top line scorer. Hornqvist and Spaling were gritty, character guys that played the "Predator Way". As hard as they played, they did not have the potential to be elite scorers, much less in the top half of the League in scoring. Neal has that ability and has shown flashes of being exceptional.
Kudos to General Manager David Poile for making a move to add immediate scoring help for the Predators. The anemic offense that has been put on the ice the past few seasons has cost the Predators a playoff berth and has put too much pressure on the defense and goaltending. Neal is a proven goal scorer and if he continues to produce can tremendously benefit this team immediately.