The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward James Neal
to a six-year contract extension, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.
The deal begins with the 2012-13 season and runs through the 2017-18 campaign, and has an average annual value of $5 million.
Neal, 24, has emerged as one of the top goal-scoring threats in the National Hockey League in his first full campaign with Pittsburgh this year. Playing most of the season on the Penguins’ top line alongside NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin
, Neal currently ranks fourth (tied) in the NHL and second on the team with a career-high 30 goals.
In addition to setting a career high in goals, the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Neal has also established single-season career highs in points (56), power-play goals (13) and shots (242). Neal’s 242 shots lead the NHL, while his 13 man-advantage tallies are tied for the league lead.
A native of Whitby, Ontario, Neal was selected to play in his first NHL All-Star Game last month in Ottawa. On Saturday afternoon, he became the first Pittsburgh winger to reach the 30-goal mark since Alexei Kovalev in the 2001-02 season.
Neal began his career year by scoring goals in each of Pittsburgh’s first eight home games this season, tying him for the second-longest home goal-scoring streak in franchise history behind Mario Lemieux’s 11-game streak in 1996. He also had a season-long eight-game point streak (7G-4A) from Dec. 8-27 – the second-longest streak of his career.
Since being acquired from the Dallas Stars on Feb. 21 of last season along with Matt Niskanen
, Neal has scored 31 goals, 31 assists and 62 points in 78 regular-season contests. He added two points (1G-1A) in seven postseason contests last spring.
Originally a second-round draft pick (33rd overall) by the Stars in 2005, Neal has appeared in 292 career NHL regular-season games with Dallas and Pittsburgh, scoring 103 goals, 90 assists and 193 points.
Prior to making his NHL debut with Dallas in 2008-09, Neal played one season with the Iowa Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL), tallying 37 points (18G-19A) in 62 games.
A member of Team Canada’s 2007 World Junior Championship gold medal winning squad, Neal played three-plus seasons of junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League between 2003-07. In 187 regular-season games with the Whalers, Neal totaled 68 goals, 105 assists and 173 points. He added 43 points (23G-20A) in 27 postseason games.