Chris Neil era ends with Ottawa Senators after 15 years

The Chris Neil era has ended in Ottawa as the Senators' forward officially announced he was hanging up his skates on December 15th after 15 years with the NHL team. The 38-year-old from Flesherton. Ontario was originally drafted by the club back in 1998 when the Senators chose him in the sixth round with the 161st overall selection. The 6-foot-1-inch right winger was taken from the North Bay Centennials of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) after scoring 72 points in 66 games in his final junior season on 26 goals and 46 assists.

Neil was drafted due to his work ethic and toughness and spent his first two pro seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. He didn't disappoint the team as he racked up more than 300 minutes in penalties in each of his two seasons there and chipped in with 24 goals and 31 assists for 55 points. Neil cracked the Ottawa lineup at the beginning of the next season and showed the club he wouldn't back down from anyone while contributing 17 points and 231 minutes in penalties as a rookie.

Neil was seen by most fans as the Senators' enforcer during his career and he led the club in penalty minutes most seasons. He did manage to score 10 or more goals on five occasions with his best showing being 16 goals and 17 assists in the 2005/06 campaign. Neil ended up playing 1,026 regular-season games with Ottawa which ranks the third-most all-time for the franchise. The only players to appear in more games with the club were Chris Phillips at 1,179 and Daniel Alfredsson at 1,178. He also managed to chip in with 112 goals along with 138 assists for 250 points.

Neil served 2,522 minutes in the penalty box for Ottawa, which ranks number one for the club and 20th all-time in the NHL. He also appeared in 95 playoff games with nine goals and 10 assists to his name along with another 204 penalty minutes. Neil is just one of two players in NHL history to play in over 1,000 regular-season games and serve over 2,500 minutes in penalties while playing their whole career with just one club. The other player to achieve the feat was former New Jersey Devils blueliner
Ken Daneyko.

Along with serving the Senators for 15 seasons, Neil also contributed to the local community and he'll be honoured for this on Jan 25th in a pregame ceremony when the Boston Bruins visit the Senators. Pierre Dorion, the general manager of the Senators, told the media that Neil is one of the club's all-time greatest players due to his leadership qualities, toughness and fearlessness and the fact he was always there to stand up for his teammates.

It was revealed that several other teams were interested in his services before the 2017/18 season began, but Neil didn't think it would be right to leave Ottawa. One of the teams that was interested in him was the Montreal Canadiens and their head coach Claude Julien. However, the Habs were only willing to offer him a Professional Tryout Contract and Neil promptly turned the Senators' rivals down. Neil then signed a one-year extension with Ottawa, but didn't appear in a regular-season game this campaign.