It finally happened: Blackhawks trade Duncan Keith to Oilers, but what a run he had here

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith accepts the trophy for MVP Monday in the Stanley Cup Final Game 6 at the United Center in Chicago.

    Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith accepts the trophy for MVP Monday in the Stanley Cup Final Game 6 at the United Center in Chicago. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/13/2021 6:55 AM

Unthinkable. Unfathomable. Ridiculous.

Four or five years ago, those would have been the reactions to even a rumor of the Blackhawks trading Duncan Keith.

 

That's because from 2005-17, Keith established himself as one of the top overall defensemen in the NHL. Few could match his puck-moving skills, quickness, speed and -- perhaps most important -- overall hockey IQ.

Keith was always a player whose true worth wasn't always measured by goals, assists or whichever hip advanced analytics happened to be in vogue at any particular time. While he certainly potted some of the franchise's most important postseason goals over the years, he also broke up or thwarted 100 times that many in his own zone.

He put together a dozen fantastic years -- ones that will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But Father Time waits for nobody and that includes a workout fiend like Keith.

So with his skills on the decline, it came as no surprise that the Hawks were looking to trade Keith the last couple of years. It finally happened Monday, as GM Stan Bowman sent the soon-to-be 38-year-old to Edmonton in exchange for D-man Caleb Jones and a third-round pick.

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The official announcement came just before 6:30 p.m., which included a statement from Hawks general manager Stan Bowman.

"Duncan Keith was the ultimate professional with the Chicago Blackhawks," Bowman said. "His toughness on the ice, his leadership in the community and his dedication to the game are a few of the reasons the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups during his 16-year career with Chicago.

"He 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. We appreciate all he has contributed to our team and the City of Chicago and his legacy will always be celebrated."

TSN's Darren Dreger tweeted earlier in Monday that Keith had signed "all paperwork waiving his no-move to go to Edmonton. This clause will travel with him, so he maintains trade protection. The Oilers were Keith's first choice."

Keith recently changed agents and gave the Hawks permission to shop him to a team out west so he could be closer to his 8-year-old son Colton

"I knew I didn't want to go those long periods of time without seeing him," Keith said on a video conference call. "That was a huge thing for me, and I just felt like the Edmonton Oilers -- right now it was a good fit, a great fit and I'm excited to start this new chapter of my career."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Hawks were able to shed all of Keith's $5.5 million cap hit, a big coup as they attempt to land a big name or two when free agency opens July 28.

The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Jones had 4 goals and 9 assists in 76 combined games the last two seasons.

What's interesting is that this doesn't at all feel the same as when Bobby Hull left for the WHL or Jeremy Roenick was sent to the Coyotes in 1996. Those moves set the franchise back for years, with the Hawks losing two popular players still in their primes.

Keith, meanwhile, is not nearly the player he was in 2010-17. He is, however, a serviceable defenseman who should give the Oilers 18-20 good minutes a night and possibly chip in on the power play and/or penalty kill.

The Hawks kept asking Keith to defend the opponent's best players while logging 24, 26 or 28 minutes. It worked at times, but there also were too many embarrassing breakdowns, bad passes and misreads.

Those moments will be all but forgotten when Keith returns to the United Center for the first time in an Oilers sweater.

Keith wasn't nearly as brash or vocal as Hull or Roenick, but he left an indelible mark that will never be erased. Etched into every fan's memory are monumental moments that helped define the Hawks of the last decade.

Many of them occurred in 2015, when Keith was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after the Hawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six years. During that heart-pounding run, Keith averaged 31:08 of ice time, led all players with 18 assists and scored 2 of that postseason's most important goals: the double-OT game-winner in Nashville in Game 1 of the opening round; and the first goal of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay at the UC.

Keith played in 1,192 games, second only to Stan Mikita's 1,396 in a Hawks uniform. He scored 105 goals, which ranks second in team annals among D-men. He also won the Norris Trophy twice as league's best defenseman.

"Life rolls on," Keith said. "It's tough to leave Chicago. I've been there for 16 seasons, I was drafted there. It's a great organization. We were always treated first class as players and were really part of kind of a transformation of that team and I just feel grateful to have been a part of it and play with so many great players."

One day his number is sure to hang in the United Center rafters.

And when it does it will be yet another day '2' remember.

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