The Chicago Blackhawks and restricted free agent Mark McNeill have agreed to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday. It's a two-way deal that pays $600,000 if he's in the NHL and $200,000 if he's in AHL, per Cap Friendly.
McNeill became an RFA this summer when the Hawks extended him a qualifying offer in late June, which gave them the right to match any offer sheet he signed.
There were rumors earlier in the summer that the Hawks were ready to trade McNeill, a 2011 first-round pick, but that hasn't come to pass. At age 23, McNeill is beginning to creep toward tweener status as a prospect. The Hawks have regularly chosen to play other young forwards over the past couple years and don't seem to be trumping him up as part of the future.
McNeill has put up stats in the AHL. Last season with Rockford, he recorded 25 goals and 23 assists in 64 games. The big question is whether he'll be able to translate that to the next level, and the Hawks haven't really given him a shot yet. He's only played in one game with Chicago.
We'll see where the Hawks go from here with McNeill. There's already tons of competition in training camp with Dennis Rasmussen, Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Luke Johnson, Tanner Kero and Kyle Baun among young forwards trying to earn NHL playing time. A trade is still possible, whether it's before the season or during it, and hey, maybe Joel Quenneville will finally come around to giving him a real chance. I'm not sure that's terribly likely, though.
McNeill might be following down the path of a guy like Jeremy Morin, who performed well in the AHL but has never quite settled into a role at the NHL level. McNeill is still relatively young and hasn't gotten the shots Morin has, so there's still time, but it's fair to say McNeill's running out of time as a major prospect at this point.