The Edmonton Oilers have arguably the two best hockey players on the planet in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Together, the two of them have combined for the last two Hart Trophies and three of the last five. Yet despite incredible efforts from the dynamic duo, the Oilers have never lived up to their expectations. Fans have started to lose hope. Opposing teams have started to look past Edmonton on their schedules, and if the team continues to exit the playoffs early, it’ll only be a matter of time before McDavid and Draisaitl start questioning their futures with Edmonton.
The 2021 offseason had to be fantastic. It had to inspire hope. So, the Oilers traded for a soon-to-be 38-year-old defenseman Duncan Keith and took on the entirety of the $3.6 million left on his contract. Huh? W-what? Why? This doesn’t make any sense no matter how you look at it. If the Oilers are attempting to rebuild, why trade for a defender who’s regressed each of the last three seasons?
Keith might be a good locker room presence, but my word, is that really worth having a liability in every aspect of the word dress for every game while making almost $2 million a year?
Don’t forget that several strong defenders were going to be UFA’s as well this offseason. Here’s a list of every UFA defender in the upcoming offseason who’s younger and recorded more points than Keith last season:
Ryan Suter, Dougie Hamilton, Alex Goligoski, Alec Martinez, Brandon Montour, Tyson Barrie, Mike Reilly, and Cody Ceci.
There are several others as well who are probably more efficient than Keith has been, despite Keith having more points. It’s not like the Oilers don’t have the cap to go after some of these defensemen. Undoubtedly, the team will look to resign Barrie, but even if Barrie were to demand $6 million per year — making him one of the 30 highest-paid defenders in the league — the Oilers would still have over $5 million in cap, more than enough to sign one or two more effective blue liners or forwards to pair with McDavid and Draisaitl.
The defender who Edmonton gave up in the deal for Keith is an average defender. Caleb Jones is not a game-changer, but he plays solid D and has room to grow. After all, the guy is only 23 years old. As long as McDavid and Draisaitl are wearing Edmonton jerseys, there’s no reason for the Oilers to be in a rebuild mode. The trade for Keith is a slap in the face to Oilers fans everywhere. It doesn’t help the team, it reduces the money available to go after free agents, and it doesn’t give the Oilers someone who can actually put points on the board to take some weight off the big two’s shoulders.
There was once a time when a trade for Keith would make any fan excited. The former Blackhawk won three Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal, and two Norris trophies during his tenure in Chicago, but that time has come and gone. This is a great deal for Keith (who gets to be closer to his son now), a great deal for Chicago, and an awful deal for Edmonton. Could Keith provide some depth on the Edmonton bench in a limited role? Maybe, but that is an enormous “if” with how Keith has played the past few years.