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Penguins sign Neal to six-year extension - 02-19-12

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The Penguins have signed forward James Neal (right) to a six-year contract extension believed to be worth a total of worth a total of $30 million. Neal will have a salary cap hit of $5 million once the contract kicks in.

In the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.875 million, Neal, 24, is having a career year with 56 points (30 goals, 26 assists) in 58 games this season. He was selected to his first career-all-star game last month.

Acquired from the Stars along with defenseman Matt Niskanen at last season's trade deadline, Neal is in his second season with the Penguins. In 20 regular season games with the Penguins last season, Neal had six points (one goal, five assists). In seven postseason games, he had two points (one goal, one assist).

This new contract will run through the 2017-18 season.

EN Says: This is excellent news for Neal and the Penguins. They lock up a player they have long sought, a scoring winger. Neal has shown what he can do this season when teamed up with a legit No. 1 center in Evgeni Malkin. A 30-goal scorer who also is a strong defensive player at $5 million at season is pretty affordable.

But what says Neal's success isn't a fluke? What guarantee do the Penguins have that he'll continue this level of play throughout the life of the contract? This is Neal's first 30-goal season of his career. And he's hardly a proven playoff performer at the NHL level.

We hate to throw a buck of cold water on a mostly postive move, but the length of this committment to a player who has only had one all-star caliber season in an admittedly short career thus far does raise a few eyebrows.

(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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