It was the worst-kept secret in the hockey world over the last 10 days or so. And sure enough, late this afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks finally consummated a rumored trade of arguably the greatest defenseman in team history, Duncan Keith, to the Edmonton Oilers.
The reporting on the negotiations between the Blackhawks and Oilers turned out to be accurate—retained salary by Chicago had been rumored to be a sticking point. In the end, the Oilers acquired Keith, who has two years remaining on his current contract, along with minor-league forward Tim Soderlund, for 24-year-old defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional third-round pick—with Chicago not having to retain any of Keith’s salary.
The Chicago media—and Blackhawk Twitter—were quick to proclaim this a big win for Blackhawks President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman. But, that is not unusual. Bowman could acquire a roll of tape and a frighteningly large segment of the fanbase would still be “juiced.”
The key to this deal is the 24-year-old Jones, not because he is a hugely promising player, but because he just happens to be the younger brother of a rumored Blackhawk offseason target, Columbus defenseman Seth Jones.
Caleb Jones, by himself, is probably yet another No. 5–7 defenseman on a Chicago team already chock full of them. But, if his presence in Chicago could help the Hawks sign the elder Jones to an extension (after first trading for him), then the Keith trade will have worked out very well for Chicago, both in terms of securing a valuable rebuild piece for the blue line, and most of the cap room needed to sign him.
If not, then Caleb Jones and a third-round draft pick (the majority of which never actually play in the NHL) is not a “winning return” for an aging, but still likely effective (in the right situation, i.e. outside Chicago), Keith.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not tap our sticks on the departure of a true warrior, and a vital cog in the great Blackhawk teams from 2009–15. Keith will be missed, and his No. 2 is certainly headed to the United Center rafters before too terribly long.
All we have for now.