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Breakdown: Predators Acquire Mark McNeill from the Dallas Stars

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ICYMI, the Preds made a minor league trade yesterday. Fans of Tyler Kelleher’s summer emergence might want to look away

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars
Mark McNeill
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Dallas Stars announced the following:

...the club has acquired defenseman Andrew O’Brien from the Nashville Predators in exchange for forward Mark McNeill.

McNeill, 24, has posted six points (5-1=6) in 18 games played for Texas this season. In parts of two seasons with Texas, he recorded 17 points (8-9=17) in 38 regular-season games played. He also made one appearance in Dallas last season, registering one shot on net.

Additionally, the Texas Stars - AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars - announced they had acquired forward Tyler Kelleher from the Milwaukee Admirals in exchange for future considerations.

This seems like a minor yet puzzling move, so let’s break it down:

Andrew O’Brien, D

O’Brien was in his first full season with the Milwaukee Admirals. He was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on January 20, 2017 in exchange for Max Gortz. On May 17, 2017 the Predators signed O'Brien to a one-year, two-way contract extension worth $650K in the NHL and $62.5K in the AHL.

Drafted by the Ducks in the fourth round in 2012, O’Brien has not been much of an offensive producer during his career. In 188 AHL games he has scored 12 goals and 43 points (only 3 of those points came in 21 games for the Admirals this season).

As I wrote in my Top 25 Under 25 recap this past summer, O'Brien has been surpassed by better talent. Of the eight defensemen who have played regularly for the Admirals, he’s second to only Joonas Lyytinen in the least amount of games played. O’Brien has been a healthy scratch often last playing on December 27th as Frederic Allard sees more ice time.

Mark McNeill, RW/C

McNeill was drafted 18th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011 but has essentially been a career AHL player. He’s in his fifth full AHL season and has averaged 0.56 points-per-game in 312 AHL contests. His best season was in 2015-16 when he recorded 24 goals and 48 points in 64 games for the Rockford IceHogs.

The Stars acquired McNeill from the Blackhawks last March and signed him to a one-year extension in June worth $660K in the NHL and $200K in the minors.

McNeill has struggled this season managing only six points in 18 games for the Texas Stars. Like O’Brien, he has not seen the lineup since December 30th. Regardless, he’s a big body who is strong on the puck below the hash marks in the offensive zone.

Tyler Kelleher, RW

Kelleher, as you may remember, is not actually property of the Nashville Predators. After an impressive Rookie Development Camp this summer, Kelleher had to settle from an AHL contract with the Admirals in his rookie pro season.

In 26 games this season, Kelleher has scored 7 goals and 12 points but missed 15 games with an injured patella until returning last night.

The future considerations isn’t much to concern ourselves with.

Takeaways

There are a few things that are running through my mind with this deal:

  • The Admirals defense is very young and inconsistent. It’s clear the coaching staff didn’t see O’Brien as an improvement or steadying force.
  • The Texas Stars had a hole on defense and saw O’Brien as a decent fit.
  • McNeill isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he’s a decent veteran forward (a la Harry Z). The Admirals could use him as Bobby Butler heads to the Olympics soon.
  • It’s disappointing to some, but it’s been clear the Predators never valued Kelleher as much as some. The amateur scouting department has picked up work overseas, and I struggled to find Kelleher’s spot in any future plans for the organization.
  • This might be wishful thinking, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see an NHL defenseman down in Milwaukee soon. I know Poile has mentioned his comfortability with carrying eight defenders, but the trade deadline could force his hand.

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.