The Edmonton Oilers have acquired defenseman Duncan Keith and forward Tim Soderlund from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Caleb Jones and a 2022 third round draft pick. If the Oilers make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and Keith is in the top-four of Edmonton defense in ice-time in 2022, the pick becomes a 2022 2nd rounder.
Oof. This is not a trade that will make Oilers fans happy. From trading a young defenseman and a pick to an aging veteran, to having that veteran cost you a ton of cap space since there was no salary retention to be seen here. Keith is an icon in Chicago and should be on his way into the Hall-of-Fame. However, he is well past his prime at this point. Keith played top-pairing minutes this year and got destroyed. He will play on the second pair in Edmonton, but that probably will not be much better. Keith has two more years left on his contract with a $5.538 million cap hit. He will be 40 just weeks after that expires. What makes things worse for Oilers fans is that Edmonton ownership is finding a way to be cheap here despite filling up a ton of cap space. In the next two years, Keith will be paid a combined $3.6 million. Maybe Jones was not ready to be a second-pairing defenseman, but Keith is not, either. Keeping the cheap option and using cap space in another area would be smarter. Plus, GM Ken Holland gives up an extra third-round draft pick. Keith’s no-move clause also makes it required to protect him in the upcoming expansion draft. A former 4th round pick back in 2017, Soderlund has completely lost his stock after struggling at the AHL level.
Keith, who will turn 38 this week, scored four goals with 11 assists for 15 points in 54 games in 2020-21 for the Blackhawks. According to Natural Stat Trick, he had an ugly 41.88 xG%. In his 16-year career, all in Chicago, Keith has scored 105 goals with 520 assists for 625 points in 1192 games.
Soderlund, 23, had five assists in 23 games for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2020-21. In 23 games for Almtuna IS in Sweden, he scored 10 goals with six assists for 16 points.
It is tough to say goodbye to a player like Keith, who won three Stanley Cups as the top defenseman on the Blackhawks in 2010, 2013, and 2015. However, this is the right move. Keith is well past his prime at this point. The Hawks get younger by acquiring Caleb Jones, who has a cap hit of just $850k for 2021-22 before becoming a restricted free agent once again. Jones was solid in 2019-20 before losing Dave Tippett’s trust this year. He is at worst, a replacement level defenseman, something that Keith was not last year. Jones’ brother is Seth Jones, who like Keith, is another controversial NHL defenseman in regards to their play. The Blackhawks, along with the Flyers and others, are reportedly interesting in the elder Jones, who told the Blue Jackets that he will not sign an extension with them prior to hitting free agency next year. Acquiring his younger brother could make Jones want to play in Chicago. The next step is whether the Blackhawks protect Caleb Jones at the expansion draft, or decide to go with all three of Nikita Zadorov, Calvin de Haan, and Connor Murphy. None of the four are locks at this point. If Edmonton is surprisingly good, then this trade gets even better.
Jones, 24, had no goals and four assists in 33 games with the Oilers this year. Perhaps he was affected by an awful 95.4 PDO, which is unlucky. Jones had an awful 37.93 GF%, but a fine 50.04 xG%. In his NHL career, all in Edmonton, Jones has scored five goals with 14 assists for 19 points in 93 games.