If Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland understood where he held the leverage in a potential Duncan Keith trade, he came into negotiations for the player already knowing he was in a can’t lose situation. The closest Holland should come to getting fleeced in any trade is understanding that, at Keith’s age, were he to join the Oilers and his game fall off a cliff, Edmonton should have seen it coming. That’s not likely to happen.
In the right role, Keith could be a very positive addition for the Oilers. Holland knows it. So does Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman. That doesn’t change the fact Chicago has pretty much only two choices: either keep the player or trade him to Edmonton. From the sounds of reports by multiple insiders, there are no other teams in the mix.
Yet, for some reason, the Blackhawks are acting like they have bargaining chips with which to play. If they actually believe they have some power to call the shots here, the Oilers need to simply walk away.
The Blackhawks “Legacy” View of Keith
Bowman is not wrong if he’s arguing that Keith is a legacy in the NHL and to the Blackhawks. He’s one of the best defenseman to play the game in decades and he’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer. None of that should matter to Holland who only cares about what Keith can bring the Oilers moving forward.
Other than the fact he’s a multiple-time Stanley Cup winner and that helps any team Keith eventually plays for, what Holland is looking for has little to do with what Keith brought Chicago in the past. Frankly, Keith is no longer that player. It’s now about where he fits on the Oilers roster today, what his value is on the Oilers salary cap and whether he can help this team. Legacy is something you worry about after you retire. If Keith is close to retirement, honestly, the Oilers shouldn’t be looking at him anyways.
What the Blackhawks Think Keith is Worth
It’s crazy enough that the Oilers are rumored to be contemplating making this trade and not forcing the Blackhawks to retain salary. The minute Bowan said he didn’t want to, Holland should have said, ‘No thanks.’ Keith could be an asset, but at $5.53 million, he’s too expensive. Still, the Blackhawks have made it clear they don’t want to hold money in any deal and Holland is respecting Bowman’s time by staying in the conversation.
That Bowman has reportedly asked for Ethan Bear and/or Ryan McLeod is laughable. Edmonton certainly isn’t going to give up a good young prospect and relieve the Blackhawks from having to pay for part of Keith’s remaining seasons under contract at the same time. Chicago is in a situation here where they probably shouldn’t even be allowed to have cake, nonetheless get to have their cake and eat it too.
If it’s a player the Oilers don’t see a future with, that’s one thing. Bear and McLeod aren’t done in Edmonton by any means.
Oilers Should Threaten to Leave the Keith Trade Table
The latest word is that Holland has laid out a “take it or leave it” offer. That’s a good start, but it’s probably an offer that’s still too rich for a lot of Oilers fans, who if this deal gets done, are going to hate it. The only way the Oilers win this trade is getting Keith for what they’re confident he’s worth, or less.
Most successful trades are ones where both sides felt they had to give a little. In this case, the Oilers should walk away the clear winners and Chicago shouldn’t. The Blackhawks main goal here is simply to not get taken to the woodshed.
If Bowman even sneezes in the wrong direction after Edmonton’s latest offer, Holland should simply tell him to call again when Chicago’s GM has come to his senses. Yes, Keith can stay put and if he does, the Oilers don’t get him. But, yes, the Oilers can also shift their search for a left-shot defenseman in a different direction. One can only hope there was never a time that Holland came across as desperate to add the player. They certainly aren’t.
If Chicago wants to force Edmonton to eat all of Keith’s salary, that’s bad enough. If they want a decent player on top of that, Bowman is out to lunch. And, if for some strange reason, Holland goes for it?… fans will have every right to come down hard on him.
Even if Keith works out and finds a great fit with the Oilers — and there’s a good chance he could — Holland will be crucified for getting fleeced in a deal where he has 99.9% of the leverage. There aren’t many situations where a team clearly has a deal handed to them on a silver platter. This is one of those times.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”