Neil a Senator for three more years

Chris Neil was one of the Senators' better performers in the playoff series against the New York...

Chris Neil was one of the Senators' better performers in the playoff series against the New York Rangers. (MATTHEW USHERWOOD/OTTAWA SUN)

DON BRENNAN, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

OTTAWA - After losing tough guys Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka to free agency on July 1, the Senators have ensured their all-time penalty minutes leader will be staying put next summer.

The Sun learned first on Tuesday afternoon that Chris Neil has agreed to a three-year contract extension believed to be worth $5.75 million.

A source said the gritty right winger is to make $2 million in each of the first two seasons and $1.75 million in 2015-16, keeping him in a Senators jersey until he’s 37.

Neil is scheduled to get a $200,000 bonus next July 1 as up-front money on his 2013-14 salary.

The Senators’ sixth-round pick in the 1998 entry draft, Neil has played all 731 of his NHL games for Ottawa. Over that time, he has recorded 90 goals and 110 assists for 200 points, along with amassing 1,861 penalty minutes — not only the most in franchise history, but also the 62nd highest total ever by an NHLer.

Including playoffs and pre-season games, the fearless Neil has dropped the gloves 161 times, matching the number of his overall draft position 14 years ago.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of Flesherton also has developed into a solid third-line player for the Senators, delivering punishing checks and regularly placing among the league leaders in hits.

At playoff time, Neil raises his game and is generally one of the most efficient players on the team. He had two goals, including a winner, and an assist in seven playoff matches with the New York Rangers this spring, tying him for fourth in team scoring.

He also knocked effective forward Brian Boyle out of the series with a hit in Game 5, prompting boos and jeers from Rangers fans when the teams returned to Madison Square Garden for the decisive tilt. Neil revelled in their venom.

“It must mean I’m doing my job,” he said with a grin.

In Ottawa’s previous post-season appearance — against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010 — Neil had three goals in six games to tie him for tops on the team.

That series cemented his reputation as the heart and soul of the Senators.

The 33-year-old, who occasionally wears an ‘A’ on his sweater as an associate captain, is a leader off the ice as well.

When asked at the team’s development camp a couple of weeks ago about his own strong worth ethic, rookie Mark Borowiecki said he tries to follow Neil’s example.

“Honestly, it sounds kind of cheesy, but being here and seeing guys like Neiler ... doesn’t matter what (strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz) Swartzie tells him to do, there’s no complaints,” said Borowiecki. “He just puts his head down and does it. I think that’s big. Not only does it make a good impression on everybody else, but it gives you that extra drive. I don’t think there’s too many guys like him. He’ll do anything.

“Swartzie was saying, ‘he’s getting older, but it seems like he’s getting stronger every year, too.’ That guy is an animal in the gym. It’s pretty cool to watch him.”

Other Senators, as well as the team’s fans, will now get to do so for another four years.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @SunDoniB


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