The Chicago Blackhawks made the first major trade of this offseason post Stanley Cup Final.
On Monday, the Blackhawks sent future Hall of Fame defenseman Duncan Keith along with forward Tim Soderlund to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional draft pick in 2022. The draft pick is Edmonton’s own third rounder in 2022. It can become a second rounder in 2022 if the Oilers win three rounds and Keith is one of the four top defensemen on the Oilers in total time on ice.
Keith requested this trade as he wanted to be closer to his home in Penticton, BC where his son lives. The Blackhawks did what they could to accommodate this request. But there could be more to this in the coming days and weeks.
A Precursor to a Bigger Move?
The Blackhawks have long been rumored for a while to be in on trying to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets’ defenseman Seth Jones. Seth has one year remaining on his current contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He has already told the Blue Jackets that he will not be signing an extension with them and intends to test free agency.
With the news that Seth’s brother Caleb is now with the Blackhawks, that opens up a convenient door for them. Perhaps the chances of a long-term extension with the Blackhawks went up thanks to this trade. Should Seth be traded to the Blackhawks, he would get the opportunity to play with Caleb. It makes you wonder if the Blackhawks think they’re a preferred destination for Seth.
As of this writing, it is not clear why Seth wasn’t interested in signing an extension with the Blue Jackets. It’s not clear how many teams he’d sign a long-term extension for either. So unless the Blackhawks know something, acquiring him for one year is a bit of a gamble. Perhaps having Caleb there will convince him to sign for longer. That is of course if the Blackhawks aren’t on his no-trade list.
Exploring Seth Jones Makes Sense
With Keith now in Edmonton, there is a need for a top defenseman on the Blackhawks blueline. Although it was a down season for Seth in Columbus, that doesn’t diminish how valuable he can be. He had a season of 16 goals and 57 points in 2017-18 on a good Blue Jackets’ team.
When he’s on his game, Seth can take over a game on his own. He has the ability to impact the game with his skating. He also has a knack for offense. He can also contribute on both special teams units. That’s why some have considered him an eventual Norris Trophy winner. Need a reminder of how good he can be? Think back to when he played 65 minutes in the five-overtime marathon in the Toronto bubble against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He said he felt “fine” and was ready for more.
With Jonathan Toews recently saying he’s coming back, the Blackhawks are positioning themselves to try to make a last run or two with him and Patrick Kane together. In order to make a significant run, they need a top defender like Jones. If they swing and miss on pending UFA Dougie Hamilton, then the Jones situation seems like a perfect match for them.
There Will Be a Cost
If the Blackhawks do make this trade and can get Seth to sign an extension, that will increase the return for the Blue Jackets. That is their preference. Many teams around the league are interested in Jones, but only if he signs long-term.
Even before the Caleb Jones’ trade, some believed that Seth would have considered the Blackhawks. It’s also believed that Colorado is on his short list. Again we can’t say for 100% certain. But the opportunity for the Blue Jackets appears to be there for the taking if they want it.
In a rental scenario, you’re talking getting some futures back. The Blue Jackets need now help and futures help. The Blackhawks seem to have some interesting pieces available in a potential deal assuming an extension is signed.
The Blue Jackets would ask for Kirby Dach but I don’t see the Blackhawks doing that. Therefore the start of a package should center around both a first-round pick and prospect Lukas Reichel. Reichel was the 17th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Then to finish it off, I’d see if the Blue Jackets could get Connor Murphy. Murphy went to Dublin Jerome High School and would be a homecoming to Columbus. With Jones going to the Blackhawks in that kind of deal, Murphy would be able to provide immediate blueline help. Perhaps the Blue Jackets could get a forward included such as Dylan Strome to help their center ice position or an Adam Boqvist to help their blue line.
And as for the first-round pick, the Blue Jackets already have three firsts this year. I’d wonder if they’d seek a 2022 first rounder to give them two in a loaded draft. If I’m the Blue Jackets especially if Strome is included in a package, I’m strongly considering the possibility.
Regardless, the Blue Jackets should expect a bigger return and the Blackhawks have some interesting pieces assuming they can agree to an extension with Seth. Don’t forget that Stan Bowman and Jarmo Kekalainen have a history of draft trades. Both Brandon Saad and Artemi Panarin found themselves traded between these teams. There’s an obvious comfort level between these GM’s so the chances of a trade are pretty good should it get that far.
Will we see a Seth and Caleb reunion at the United Center? Don’t discount the possibility.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.