EDMONTON - Chris Neil could be making another trip out West in the not-so-distant future.
The hard-nosed Senators winger is in demand as the trade deadline approaches, and it’s believed one team to express interest is the Vancouver Canucks.
First overall in the NHL standings, the Canucks are loaded with talent but short on toughness.
Neil, the Senators’ all-time penalty minutes leader, could fill that void.
“My first choice is to stay in Ottawa,” Neil said of the trade rumours. “Other than that, I don’t really have any control over it.
“I want to be a part of rebuilding this team and doing whatever I can to help out here. Helping the young guys or whatever it is ... I don’t want to go anywhere, but if it happens, it’s part of the game. It’s reality.
“I’d like to think I’m part of the solution here. But who knows?”
One obstacle is to a trade is money. The Canucks have no available cap room and Neil has two more years left on a contract that pays him $2 million US per season.
The Senators shouldn’t be eager to dump him, either. In his ninth season with the club, Neil is a leader of the team who has an excellent 1-2 punch in the fight game — a top middleweight who complements heavyweight Matt Carkner.
Neil can also still play.
Although he has scored only three goals and nine assists in 55 games this season, Neil has one of the better plus-minus marks (minus-9) on a 29th-place team. That while averaging 12:17 of ice time per game.
Neil also has 74 games of playoff experience and last spring scored three goals in Ottawa’s six-game series against the Penguins.
“Playoffs is a great time of year,” said Neil. “It’s where you see guys’ character. It’s a spot where I go out, I play hard. That’s playoff hockey.
“If I don’t go anywhere, and I don’t make the playoffs, it’s devastating. But you take the summer to regroup, come back focused, and you’ve got to get back there. That’s the bottom line.”