Duncan Keith got his wish on Monday afternoon, as the future Hall of Fame defenseman was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Edmonton Oilers. Keith, along with prospect Tim Soderlund, comes to Edmonton in exchange for defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 draft choice.
Edmonton is taking on massive risk with this deal, assuming the full load over the course of Keith’s final two years on his contract. Edmonton adds a $5,538,462 per year cap hit that could make completing all the other necessary business difficult.
Still, Keith brings an outstanding resume to the Oilers and hopes to be one of the missing pieces for a group that has gone 1-7 in their last eight playoff games. A three-time Stanley Cup Champion, two-time Norris Trophy winner and the 2015 Conn Smythe recipient as playoff MVP, Keith knows a thing or two about winning.
In fact, his biggest contribution to the Oilers may be in the room and in helping the young core of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse take the next step.
Still, the Oilers need Keith to be solid, at least, on the ice. Ideally, Keith will fill the vacant second pairing defense spot previously occupied by Oscar Klefbom. With a return unlikely at best for Klefbom, the Oilers are hoping that Keith will be able to fill that hole for the next two seasons alongside pending UFA Adam Larsson.
At the very least, the soon-to-be 38-year-old defenseman appears up to the task.
“For me, my mindset going to Edmonton is to best the best player I can be because that’s what’s going to help the team the most; what I do on the ice,” Keith said at his introductory press conference on Monday. “I’m excited for the opportunity and challenge that is ahead of me here. I want to bring a strong work ethic and everything starts from that.”
There are questions abound about whether or not Keith, who will turn 38 on Friday, is going to be able to produce as a top-four defenseman. His numbers have declined in recent seasons, and Father Time is undefeated after all.
Keith doesn’t seem deterred by the fact that he struggled in 2020-21, and that he’s likely entering the final year or two of his storied career.
“I feel like I got a lot,” Keith said when asked about what he feels he has left in the tank. “I guess once we hit the ice we’re gonna see whose a step behind out there, so I’m not much for talking, it is what it is. We’ll see what happens when we get on the ice.”
A clearly determined Keith is a good thing. After all, players like Zdeno Chara and Chris Chelios have had success in their late 30’s and even into their early 40’s. Yes, they are clearly the exceptions to the rule, but Keith is hoping to be next in that rare line.
If Keith’s verbal is to be believed, Edmonton is getting a highly motivated player with all of the missing intangibles needed. None of that will matter if he can’t still play, however. The veteran is determined to be the best version of himself that he can be, while proving all of his doubters wrong.