We’ve been treated to the first big deal of the offseason with the Chicago Blackhawks trading Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 12, 2021
This was always going to be a wild offseason in the NHL with the Seattle Kraken officially entering the league, and it has gotten off to a big start after the Edmonton Oilers acquired defenseman Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier today.
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First reported by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the first big trade of this offseason is now official and there is a lot to unpack.
With further details now available, the Blackhawks have received defenseman Caleb Jones and a Third-Round pick while the Oilers get a three-time Stanley Cup champion in Keith who will bring a bucketload of experience to that Edmonton locker room.
However, the biggest and most intriguing piece of this deal is the fact that the Blackhawks have not retained any of Keith’s $5,538,462 salary, which has two more years left.
We are going to grade this trade a little bit later but, first, we wanted to share our instant reactions to the first blockbuster deal of what is shaping up to be a wild, wild offseason…
Blackhawks early winners, Oilers big losers in Duncan Keith trade
As mentioned above, the thing that jumps out first is the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks have not had to retain any of Keith’s salary, meaning that they have got a hefty contract off the books and now have room to make other moves.
It is no secret that the Hawks are interested in elite defenseman Seth Jones who looks set to be traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason, and they now have the cap room to accommodate Jones’ $5,400,000 cap hit in 2020-21.
This deal is also a significant win for Chicago given that Keith was on a steep decline having recorded just 15 points (4 G, 11 A) in 54 games in 2020-21 with a plus / minus rating of -13, while averaging 23:25 minutes of ice time.
It was Keith’s worst year statistically and his underlying metrics also fell off a cliff, so the fact that the Blackhawks got a Third-Round pick, a solid depth defenseman in Caleb Jones and didn’t have to retain any salary can be seen as a major win.
Also, Caleb Jones, who is the younger brother of Seth, could be used as a selling point for his older sibling if the Blackhawks are able to swing a trade, while he has a cap hit of just $850k for the 2020-21 season.
This is the end of a golden era for the Chicago Blackhawks with only Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews now remaining from the glory days, but they have certainly helped their future with this deal even if they are waving goodbye to a franchise icon.
For the Oilers, however, this is another headscratcher by General Manager Ken Holland and another instance in which you have to feel sorry for superstar forward Connor McDavid, who continues to be letdown by his franchise.
Sure, Keith is a respected leader in the NHL and he’ll be a nice fit in the Oilers locker room, especially for the younger players, while he knows what it takes to win having been a key cog in Chicago’s Stanley Cup dynasty.
Plus, the fact that Keith wanted to be traded to the Oilers in order to be closer to his son in Western Canada could mean that the veteran defenseman is motivated to give things a real go in Edmonton.
However, as we mentioned above, the 37-year-old is past his prime and is clearly regressing as he nears the end of his career, enduring a tough year with the Blackhawks in 2020-21 and the below chart from Evolving-Hockey sums up Keith’s downward spiral perfectly:
No further comments at this time pic.twitter.com/JP0iFKPhDB
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) July 12, 2021
He has become a liability at 5-on-5, he’s not effective on the power play anymore and you have to wonder just what kind of role Keith will play for the Oilers given his age and declining numbers and just the general alarming drop in his overall play.
Again, the two-time Norris Trophy winner will bring winning experience to the Oilers, an intangible you can’t buy, and he could be the perfect role model for young defenseman Ethan Bear, while just being on the same ice as McDavid could see a bump in his offensive numbers at both 5-on-5 and on the power play.
But if Keith continues to regress and can’t carve out a bounce-back season in 2020-21, then this will quickly become an almighty bust for the Oilers who, for some unthinkable reason, gave up a pick and a player while taking on all of the defenseman’s salary.
This isn’t Duncan Keith at the peak of his powers, the player who made everything possible for Chicago during their run to three Stanley Cups, rather a veteran who has seen his best days fly past him.
Of course, we won’t actually know how all this will pan out until Duncan Keith puts on an Edmonton Oilers jersey for the first time and actually plays in a few games for his new team but, at first glance, the Chicago Blackhawks have come out on top in this trade.