The first major trade of the NHL offseason was one that had been in the works since the weeks leading up to the Stanley Cup Finals, as the Chicago Blackhawks finally sent defenseman Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Caleb Jones and a 3rd round pick after much speculation. Keith was an integral part of the Blackhawks dynasty in the early-mid 2010s, as he helped the franchise win three Stanley Cups in a six year span. He has a $5.5 million cap hit, which is all going to Edmonton in this deal, as Chicago is not retaining any money.
Regardless of our opinion on the play of Duncan Keith over the last several years in Chicago, we believe he is a first ballot hall of famer without question, as he has a very extensive resume in his sixteen-year NHL career. A three time Stanley Cup Champion as we mentioned, three time NHL All-Star, two time Norris Trophy winner, a Conn Smythe trophy recipient during the Hawks 14-15 championship run, and a two time Olympic gold medalist in 2010 and 2014, Keith will bring a substantial degree of pedigree and experience to an Oilers defense group consisting of many young players such as recent first round picks Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. The effect Keith will have on those young players isn’t quantifiable, but we believe it will tremendously aid in their development, making the gamble worth the risk for Edmonton. Keith turns thirty-eight years old on Friday and has played 1192 regular season games with 135 playoff games in his sixteen year career. To put this into perspective, he plays an average of 74.5 games per year with his average ice time being 24:57 in addition to an extra 1.6 full seasons of hockey in the playoffs, averaging 28 minutes per game. In Edmonton, he likely won’t be playing those extreme minutes, nor should he have to. With all this being said, Duncan Keith has registered negative AB seasons in three of his last four years with the Blackhawks, including two -12 or worse seasons in 2017-18 and 2020-21. Despite this, he still has an incredible +3.06 career AB score over the fourteen possible years of data we have on him. We believe, that in this reduced role, Keith’s 2021-22 AB score should substantially improve from his 2020-21 score, even if it isn’t a positive score. This move frees up around $4.5 million for the Blackhawks, giving them a total of $10.8 million in cap space pre-expansion draft. Edmonton now has around $11 million pre-expansion draft with the addition of Keith.
Caleb Jones is the player we had the Seattle Kraken selecting from the Oilers in our mock expansion draft, and we explained there how we believe Jones’ AB scores were victim of playing on bad teams, as the 2018-19 Edmonton Oilers finished with a combined team score of -126.76, which was among the worst in the NHL that season. Jones’ AB score that season was -8.09 but saw a massive improvement under new Oilers coach Dave Tippett in 2019-20 with a +0.07 score. This season, it decreased back to a -2.78 score, which still averages out to a -1.35 in two seasons under Tippett. The upside is there with Jones, as he is only twenty-three years old. He only averaged around 13.5 minutes per game this season with the Oilers, however we believe his production will increase with a bigger role in Chicago under coach Jeremy Colliton. With the extra cap space, and Caleb Jones in the fold, the Blackhawks are now the favorites in our eyes to land Caleb’s brother and NHL All-Star Seth Jones from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade. It’s been rumored that Seth wanted to be traded somewhere where an extension can get done, and perhaps the appeal of having his brother in Chicago could lead to an agreement. More to come on that soon. The year of the 3rd round pick heading to Chicago from Edmonton in this deal is unconfirmed. However, we infer it is a 2022 selection, because Edmonton does not have a 2021 3rd rounder, as they dealt it to the Calgary Flames in the Milan Lucic for James Neal trade. This would be Chicago’s third 3rd round selection in 2022, as they have their own in addition to Vegas’ from the Mattias Janmark trade. In terms of expansion, we believe the Blackhawks will still expose Riley Stillman in this situation, as the protection list will look something like the list below. Riley Stillman was our selection by the Kraken in our mock expansion draft article, and we believe even after this deal he is still the best option available.
Forward 1- Jonathan Toews (NMC)
Forward 2- Patrick Kane (NMC)
Forward 3- Alex DeBrincat
Forward 4- Dylan Strome
Forward 5- Henrik Borgstrom
Forward 6- Brandon Hagel
Forward 7- David Kampf
Defenseman 1- Caleb Jones
Defenseman 2- Connor Murphy
Defenseman 3- Nikita Zadorov
Goaltender 1- Kevin Lankinen
Notable UFAs- Zack Smith, Vinnie Hinostroza, Brandon Pirri,
Notable Exempt– Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach, Philipp Kurashev, Lukas Reichel, Adam Boqvist, Pius Suter
Notable Exposed– Calvin De Hann, Malcom Subban, Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, Adam Gaudette, Ryan Carpenter
However, this trade provides a lot of answers on Edmonton’s expansion draft process, as they now have to protect Duncan Keith’s NMC, which they’d likely do anyway given the fact they just traded for him. This likely means that Adam Larsson will not be re-signing with the Oilers until at least after the expansion draft, as that would mean they would need to expose one of Ethan Bear or Darnell Nurse, which won’t happen. Edmonton’s protection list following this trade could look something like the list below.
Forward 1- Connor McDavid
Forward 2- Leon Draisaitl
Forward 3- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Forward 4- Jesse Puljujarvi
Forward 5- Kailer Yamamoto
Forward 6- Zack Kassian
Forward 7- Dominik Kahun
Defenseman 1- Duncan Keith (NMC)
Defenseman 2- Darnell Nurse
Defenseman 3- Ethan Bear
Goaltender 1- Mikko Koskinen
Notable UFAs- Mike Smith, Adam Larsson, Dmitry Kulikov, Tyson Barrie, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis
Notable Exempt– Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, Dylan Holloway
Notable Exposed– Kris Russell, Josh Archibald, Kyle Turris, James Neal, Oscar Klefbom
This list means that Oscar Klefbom would likely be left exposed as a result of this Duncan Keith trade, which makes Edmonton’s expansion draft pick much more interesting for the Seattle Kraken. Out of the names listed, taking a flyer on Klefbom in hopes he can return to solid form after his injury wouldn’t be the worst decision should Kraken management decide to do so. He is under contract for two more seasons at $4.167 million, which could be a low-risk, high-reward situation for Ron Francis and his group. This will certainly be something we keep an eye on, as the Oilers kick off the offseason with a bang on this Monday afternoon. Much more to come.