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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton Oilers player review and 2021-22 preview: Duncan Keith

Welcome to the 2020-21 season review and 2021-22 season preview player-by-player! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 season and previewing the 2021-22 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.

Oh hey, Duncan.

As a whole, there were few more cataclysmic events this offseason than Duncan Keith being acquired by the Edmonton Oilers. They paid a fairly hefty cost moving a solid prospect in Caleb Jones and a conditional third round pick for the grizzled vet who joins the Oilers with no salary retained.

Say what you will about Jones, but he’s still a solid prospect in the NHL and should be a good defenceman. The main issue with the third round pick is that it holds a condition that also clogs up the Oilers’ 2nd round pick in 2022. That’s an issue for a team that will likely be looking to add at the trade deadline. The full, $5.5-million salary that comes with Keith is a kicker, too.

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This all lands squarely at the feet of GM Ken Holland who couldn’t navigate his way out of a phonebooth with Edmonton being the only team Keith really wanted to come to.

But no matter how much you may or may not like the deal, there is no denying Keith’s accolades. Three Stanley Cups. One Conn Smythe. Two Norris Trophies. Two Olympic Golds. One WHL championship.

No matter where he’s played, Keith has won all there is to win. The Oilers are banking on that pedigree leaking into the organization as it navigates a hunt for its first cup in over 30 years. There’s undeniable value there.

On the ice, however, is where the question marks start to appear. His underlying numbers have been amongst the worst in the entire league over the last season or two.

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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. This, all the while playing against middling competition.

Yeah sure, his partners weren’t that good in Chicago the last two years. Adam Boqvist, his most common partner, is a still young puck-moving defenceman. Connor Murphy, too, isn’t much to write home about, but both carried strong isolated impacts in both ends of the ice suggesting there’s more than meets the eye.

Keith, meanwhile, was a drag on shot attempt share, goal share and expected goal share for both defencemen. Rather than the veteran Keith carrying the workload, it’s safe to say that buck had been passed on.

There’s a good chance Keith is able to rebound in Edmonton though. The surefire hall of famer is playing closer to his son and is on a much more competitive team in a market thirsty for results.

Now, it’s up to him to deliver.


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]

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