In just his second season with the Edmonton Oilers, veteran forward James Neal has been placed on waivers.
The Oilers made the announcement on their Twitter page at noon on Saturday.
Neal, who has been playing most of the season on a line with Kyle Turris and Zack Kassian, has only played nine games so far this season. In those games, he has recorded two goals and one assist.
While Neal is a few years removed from his prime, the Oilers were hoping to see his point production looking similar to last year. In 2019-20, Neal recorded 19 goals and 31 points in 51 games.
Is he playing horrendously? No, but it may just be time that the Oilers want to give someone else a look.
Plus, including this season, Neal still has three years left on his contract with an annual average salary (AAV) of $5.75 million. A contract like that may just be too big for anybody willing to claim him on waivers.
If Neal does clear waivers after the 24 hours are up, the Oilers may elect to add him to the team’s taxi squad rather than letting him play in the AHL.
As of Saturday, February 13, the Oilers have played 16 games so far this season and have a 9-7-0 record – good for third in the North Division.
While their defence could use some improvement (3.25 goals against per game), the Oilers have scored the most goals (55) in the league. Most of this is thanks to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who sit first and second respectively in the NHL scoring race.
Neal had a chance to play with McDavid when the team played against the Montreal Canadiens this week, but it’s clear that he doesn’t have enough speed to keep up with the Oilers’ captain.
With that being said, it’s unlikely Neal’s production will be missed as long as he remains out of the lineup.
If anything, Devin Shore, who the Oilers placed on the taxi squad on Friday, could be called up for another look.
Shore has two points and 17 hits in 10 games this season.
Oilers’ odds to win the North Division.
If you want to look at things from a betting perspective, Neal being placed on waivers shouldn’t affect the Oilers’ NHL Stanley Cup odds or NHL regular season odds.
According to 888Sport, Edmonton has the fifth-best odds of finishing in first place of the division as of Saturday, February 13. The Oilers come in listed at +1200, owning better odds than only the Vancouver Canucks (+3500) and Ottawa Senators (+25000).
Until the Oilers address their defensive and goaltending needs, winning the division would be considered a longshot for them.
Even if the Oilers do make the playoffs, their Stanley Cup odds sit at +2800, which is 14th-best in the league at the moment, according to 888Sport.