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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton Oilers acquire Duncan Keith from Chicago Blackhawks

The Edmonton Oilers have acquired Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks, pending a trade call.

According to Daily Faceoff and The Nation Network’s Frank Seravalli, the Oilers are sending back defenceman Caleb Jones and a mid-round pick believed to be a third or fourth-round pick.

The veteran defenceman is a two-time Norris winner, a one-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner, three-time Stanley Cup Champion, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and one of the best to ever don a Chicago jersey.

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In the deal, the Oilers acquire a grizzled defenceman who has won at every level and there’s undoubtedly value in that for a still-young team looking to breakthrough in the playoffs. But in doing so they’ve parted with two assets both more valuable than Keith.

While he wasn’t tremendous, Jones was a young, serviceable third-pairing defenceman who excelled in moving the puck and was better in his own zone than many were willing to give him credit for.

Keith, meanwhile, has played against middling competition with Chicago and his on-ice results have not been kind. According to hockeyviz.com, Keith’s even-strength offensive contributions were four percent below league average and his even-strength defensive contributions were a whopping 12 percent below league average.

Over the past two years, he’s still put up moderate numbers scoring 42 points in 115 games. Last season at 5×5, Keith scored .52 points per hour, enough to place him second last on the Oilers ahead of only William Lagesson and Slater Koekkoek.

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Keith also has two years left on a contract paying him a whopping $5.5-million against the cap this year and next. The Oilers are unable to viably buyout the last year of his contract, too, as he would still be owed $4.5-million against the cap in 2022-23 and $500k against the cap in 2023-24.

I understand the value that Keith brings as a leader but when that’s the only good part of a trade you have to really consider what the Oilers are doing here.

There have been no reports yet of any salary retention from Chicago in the deal, either, making this an even tougher pill to swallow. Teams around the league have been forced to attach draft picks to get rid of problem contracts on their team.

Just last year the Toronto Maple Leafs had to give up a first round pick to move the final year of Patrick Marleau’s salary to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Keith is believed to have had a very limited list of destinations he would accept a deal to in Edmonton, Calgary, Seattle and Vancouver. It’s clear none of the other three teams were clamouring to acquire him, so why did Ken Holland feel the need to jump at this deal? Why didn’t he sit on this for longer and make Chicago uncomfortable? Why not force Chicago’s hand into doing what Toronto had to do?

The Oilers were likely to lose Jones in the expansion draft, but now the team will not only lose Jones as an asset, but another likely young player to Seattle all the while giving up a third-round pick and acquiring a significant cap hit.

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Edmonton had, and still has a chance to have an impactful offseason that will better this team for years down the road. Despite that, forcing $5.5-million in cap space on a third pairing defenceman is not going to make the Oilers better. As a matter of fact, it might handcuff the Oilers even more by limiting some of what they’re able to do in free agency.

Keith could come in and surprise everybody and that’s what I and many others will hope for. Maybe a chance to play with two of the game’s best in a lesser role allows for him to have some more on-ice success.

All in all, however, the chances of this deal working out for the Oilers is slim and it’s a very risky bet by the organization.


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]