|Chris Neil watches the action at the Bell Sensplex, where he made a guest appearance at the Ottawa Senators Hockey Camps.
The familiar gap-toothed grin pretty much said it all.Chris Neil
is right where he belongs and for a lot of years yet. And the rugged Ottawa Senators forward wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way.
"It means something for me to play in Ottawa," said the seven-year veteran, who turned down at least three free-agent contract offers to sign a four-year deal on July 1 that kept him with the only National Hockey League team he has ever known.
"I left a lot of money on the table with those other teams (but) I wanted to be fair to the team and the organization. I think we have a good thing here. I think we have an elite team and we've just got to get back to where we were a couple of years ago."
While the 30-year-old Neil's offensive totals declined to a career-low three goals and 10 points in 2008-09 -- injuries limited him to 60 games worth of action -- his value to the team extends far beyond such numbers. Neil believes it's the reason the Senators wanted to keep him in their future plans.
"The biggest thing with me is you know what you're going to get every night," Neil said earlier today at the Bell Sensplex, where he made a guest appearance at the Ottawa Senators Hockey Camps. "I show up, I work hard and I'm going out and finishing my checks and doing my thing. That's the team aspect of the game. It's not an individual that wins you the Stanley Cup. It's a team game.
"It means something for me to play in Ottawa. I think we have a good thing here. I think we have an elite team and we've just got to get back to where we were a couple of years ago." - Chris Neil
"I think Ottawa realizes what I do bring (to the ice) and that's why my contract is a four-year deal. It's what you do game in and game out, it's not just about one individual game or getting 20 or 50 points. It's not about that all the time. It's about having a good nucleus of guys and being able to contribute in other areas. If I'm not getting the points like I have in years past, I bring other elements to my game and I think that's what makes me a unique player."
Count Neil among those willing to do what it takes to make amends for a down year that saw the Senators miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
"Definitely, the whole team had a rough season," said Neil. "I was a part of it and the guys that are a part of it, they want to be a part of fixing it. Not making the playoffs for the first time in my NHL career was devastating. We want to get back to being the elite team that we are."Olympic camps calling Senators
New Senators forward Alex Kovalev and veteran blueliner Anton Volchenkov are among 38 players selected to attend Russia's Olympic summer camp. The Russians, who are the reigning world champions, will assemble Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 in Moscow to begin preparations for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Finland, meanwhile, will begin its pre-Olympic summer camp on Aug. 10. Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu is among the 46 players named earlier this week to take part in it. Team Canada's summer camp runs Aug. 24-27 in Calgary, with Ottawa forward Dany Heatley among those previously named to that roster.
On the junior side, Senators defence prospect Patrick Wiercioch
is in Saskatoon for Team Canada's national junior summer development camp, which begins today and runs through Sunday. It's Hockey Canada's first step in building its team for the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon and Regina.