NHL Rumors: James Neal a fit for Lightning; and Claude Giroux heading to free agency?

Latest NHL Rumors focuses on potentially big free agent.

nhl rumors claude giroux
May 1, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) against the New Jersey Devils at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more intriguing UFA’s still unsigned is James Neal who was bought out by the Edmonton Oilers. The 33 year-old LW is a big boy at 6-3 and 212 lbs, but has not drawn much interest to date.

There is one team that lost an entire line this offseason that may find him a good option.

NHL Rumors: James Neal a Lightning fit?

Neal had just five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games before the Oilers opted to buy him out. He was once considered one of the better forwards in the game. During a 7 season stretch from 2012 to 2018 he averaged 27 goals per season. His career totals include 294 goals and 261 assists (555 points) in 850 games played.

The Tampa Bay Lightning paid the price for winning back-to-back Cups losing their entire third line. Barclay Goodrow went to the Rangers, Blake Coleman to the Flames, and Yanni Gourde was lost in expansion to the Kraken.

james neal free agent
Mar 6, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk (19) and Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal (18) fight during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Signing Corey Perry was a low cost move for GM Julien BriseBois. Tampa really doesn’t have cap space but Neal may be a likely PTO candidate. He could impress enough to earn a 1-year deal at $1 million or less if one of the younger kids fails to impress during camp.

Claude Giroux won’t talk new contract

The Flyers top center is likely heading to unrestricted free agency next season. According to GM Chuck Fletcher the two sides will not discuss a new deal until the end of the season.

“I think we’re both comfortable with that,” he said. “Claude’s our captain, he’s a great player, and I anticipate that we’ll find a way to continue that relationship going forward, but right now I think what we’ll do is we’ll just get through the season and we’ll look at the situation and see where he’s at, see where we’re at, and we’ll do what’s best for everybody.”

While Fletcher sounds optimistic, but there’s always a risk of waiting too long to deal with pending UFA. If Giroux decides to test the market, the Flyers will lose a key asset for nothing. If Philadelphia is on the outside looking in at the trade deadline, I even expect Giroux to be traded as a rental.

Giroux, 33, is coming off a season where he scored 43 points in 54 games. This is the final year of a contract that comes with a $8.275M cap hit.