The Blackhawks also sent forward Tim Soderlund to the Oilers, who were looking for some help on defense after they were swept by Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs. The 2022 draft pick becomes a second-rounder if Edmonton reaches next year’s Stanley Cup Final and Keith is among the top four Oilers defensemen in total ice time through three rounds.
No salary was retained in the first blockbuster trade of the NHL offseason since the Stanley Cup. Keith has two years left on his contract at a salary-cap hit just over $5.5 million. He turns 38 on Friday.
Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said Keith “will go down as one of the best and most driven defensemen this game has ever seen.”
“Recently, Duncan came to us with a request to be traded to a team closer to his son and we were happy to work something out that was mutually beneficial for Duncan’s family and the future of the Blackhawks,” Bowman said in a release. “We appreciate all he has contributed to our team and the City of Chicago and his legacy will always be celebrated.”
Keith is the latest member of Chicago’s three-time Stanley Cup-winning core to depart while the embattled Blackhawks attempt to rebuild their roster amid an investigation into sexual assault allegations from their 2010 championship run.
Longtime defense partner Brent Seabrook announced his retirement in March because of injuries. Blue-line staple Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to Arizona in 2017. Captain Jonathan Toews said he expects to play in 2021-22 after missing this past season with an illness.
Jones just turned 24 and has 95 regular-season and playoff games of NHL experience. The brother of Columbus defenseman Seth Jones is under contract through next season at a salary of $850,000, slightly above the league minimum.
“Caleb Jones is a smooth skating, versatile defenseman who brings a well-rounded game to the Blackhawks,” Bowman said. “Caleb transitions the puck nicely with his legs or through outlet passes. He brings some size to our group, and we believe his best hockey is in front of him.”
This move could make the Blackhawks a more attractive suitor for Seth Jones, who is a year away from unrestricted free agency and being shopped by the Blue Jackets this summer. Jones has some control over where he plays next based on which teams he would and would not sign a long-term extension with.
Keith had all the power over his destination thanks to the full no-movement clause that was included in the $72 million, 13-year contract he signed in 2009. This trade allows Chicago to take another rebuilding step and puts Keith closer to home.
The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native goes to a contender in Edmonton that has the past two Hart Trophy winners as league MVP: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the latter of whom is considered the best player in hockey. The Oilers have long struggled to keep the puck out of their net and won only one playoff series since drafting McDavid in 2015.
That was just after Keith won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in leading the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons. Keith won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman in 2010 and 2014 in the midst of Chicago’s championship era.
Keith has 625 points in 1,192 regular-season games since the Blackhawks drafted him in the second round in 2002. More importantly, he has 86 points in 135 playoff games, averaging 28 minutes of ice time.
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