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Report: NHL coach and GM feuded over UFA Neil

Could you imagine Chris Neil in a different jersey? It almost happened…

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According to a report from french-language newspaper La Presse, Chris Neil was almost a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

In a translated article from La Presse’s Richard Labbe, it’s revealed that Canadiens head coach Claude Julien petitioned GM Marc Bergevin to sign the veteran forward to a contract. Bergevin hesitated and eventually offered Neil a professional tryout contract, but without any certainty that he’d end up as a member of the Habs, Neil declined.

“It made me understand from the start that Claude [Julien] loved Chris very much, that he loved his strength of character and his leadership," said Todd Reynolds, Neil's agent, in a telephone interview with La Presse.

It’s clear that Julien and Bergevin did not see eye-to-eye on what Neil can bring to the table. It’s also surprising that for a GM who claims to put such a premium on leadership and character, that Bergevin wouldn’t prize Neil as a free-agent addition. In any case, the marriage never came to be.

"The Canadiens people gave Chris a professional try about two weeks before the opening of the training camp. If the team had offered him a contract, he would be a member of the Habs right now," said Reynolds.

Incredible. Could you imagine Chris Neil with any team OTHER than the Ottawa Senators? It seems too bizarre to imagine… but stranger things have happened.