Chris Neil will be staying in the city he has come to know as home.
The Ottawa Senators signed the tough-as-nails veteran forward to a three-year contract extension Thursday. The 33-year-old has spent his entire 10-season career with the Senators, recording 90 goals and 110 assists along with a franchise-leading 1,861 penalty minutes.
“To have the opportunity to play another four years here ... it’s like home for me here,” Neil told reporters.
“I love this city, love the organization and to have the opportunity to play here for another four years, it’s unbelievable.”
Neil, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, said he’s relieved to get a new contract out of the way and is pleased to have a chance to finish his career as a Senator.
“Whenever you have other stuff on your mind it takes away from your game out there,” he said. “I think to be able to get something done, obviously I’m excited about it, and I hope the team’s excited about it too.”
Neil became just the fourth Ottawa player to appear in 700 games on Jan. 21 in Anaheim. His longevity is made more remarkable by his playing style. He’s physical checker who is no stranger to dropping the gloves.
“Fighting, for me, it’s part of the game,” he said. “There’s nothing better than going to a hockey game and seeing a good tilt on the ice, and I think it always will be part of the game.
Neil was selected 161st overall by the Sens in the 1998 NHL draft. The Flesherton, Ont., native said he entered the league as a fighter but has rounded out his game since. In addition to being a proficient checker, he is no slouch offensively with 13 goals and 15 assists in 72 games last season.
“Other teams don’t want me on the ice, and that’s what I want,” he said.