Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators part ways over veteran enforcer's ice time
Neil played 15 seasons with Sens, holds team record for penalty minutes
The Ottawa Senators and Chris Neil are parting ways in what general manager Pierre Dorion described Thursday as a "mutual decision" over the longtime forward's ice time next year.
Neil, 37, played in only 53 games this year and saw limited ice time when he did play, as new coach Guy Boucher introduced more youth into his lineup.
"Both us and Chris felt that that's probably not a role that he would like, and we decided mutually that it was probably best we wouldn't offer a contract to Chris for next year," said Dorion.
Neil has been with the Senators — the only NHL team he's played for — since 2001, three years after the team drafted him in the 6th round.
The gritty forward played was a physical presence on the ice for 15 seasons, and has a headlock on the team record for penalty minutes with 2,522. The next-closest Sen? Chris Phillips with 758 PIMs.
Neil also played more games for the Senators — 1,026 — than anyone other than Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson.
Neil's impact 'won't be forgotten'
"Chris to me represents everything that people would want our organization to be: his character, his leadership, his grit, what he's ready to sacrifice, what he's been able to do for his teammates," said Dorion.
"His ability to take on bigger, stronger guys and fight for his teammates will never be forgotten on this team," he said.
Dorion said Neil told him he felt he can play more minutes than he received last year, "and we have to respect that."
Dorion described the meeting as difficult, but said there were no hard feelings. He said when Neil does decide to retire, the Senators would welcome him back in some role.
"However long he wants to play after that, I think as an organization we should always have the door open for Chris Neil," he said.
Neil hasn't stated publicly where he wants to continue his playing career after leaving the Senators.