With training camps starting to wrap up and the regular season about to begin, some professional tryouts are coming to an end. Thomas Hickey and James Neal have been released by the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets respectively, the latter according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
Neal, 35, did a bit in the preseason of what he has always done – score goals – but it wasn’t enough to earn an NHL contract with the Blue Jackets. The veteran forward embraced a minor league role with the Springfield Thunderbirds last season and seems likely to do the same this year, if he wants to continue his career.
Over parts of 14 seasons in the league, Neal has 296 goals and 559 points in 869 games, reaching the 20-goal mark in each of his first ten years. While that NHL production has vanished recently, he did score 14 goals and 26 points in 28 games for the Thunderbirds and helped them reach the Calder Cup finals (which they ultimately lost).
Hickey, meanwhile, was also playing the minor league game last season, spending most of the year with the Bridgeport Islanders and Ontario Reign. The 33-year-old defenseman has more than 450 games played at the NHL level but quickly fell out of favor after signing a hefty contract with the New York Islanders.
With just seven NHL appearances since the start of the 2019-20 season, it seems unlikely that Hickey will get another full-time role at this point. If he wants to continue, perhaps another team will give him a chance on a two-way deal for minor league depth.