The Blackhawks' offseason is in full swing after the organization parted ways with three-time Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith, who waived his full no-movement clause to be traded to the Edmonton Oilers. The trade was, respectfully, requested by the 37-year-old defenseman so he can be closer to his son in Western Canada and the Blackhawks honored that wish.
"We were happy to work something out that was mutually beneficial for Duncan’s family and the future of the Blackhawks," President/GM Stan Bowman said in a statement. "We appreciate all he has contributed to our team and the City of Chicago and his legacy will always be celebrated."
In return for Keith, the Blackhawks acquired 24-year-old defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2022. The deal also included forward prospect Tim Soderlund, who was sent to Edmonton.
Perhaps the most notable part of the trade: Chicago did not retain any of Keith's salary, which had been a hang-up between the two sides for more than a week. Keith's cap hit is at $5.538 million for the next two seasons, but his actual cash is only $3.6 million total.
The move opened up $4.7 million in cap space for the Blackhawks, who are now in a position to make a big splash this summer. And you can expect them to be relatively aggressive.
With Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit) and Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million cap hit) on long-term injured reserve and newfound cap space available from the Keith trade, the Blackhawks are likely to target All-Star defenseman Seth Jones — the older brother of Caleb — via trade or six-time 40-point scoring defenseman Dougie Hamilton via free agency.
Earlier this offseason, Seth Jones informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he does not plan on signing a contract extension and intends to become a free agent when his contract expires after the 2021-22 season.
Now, let's be clear: Chicago isn't going to trade for only one year of Jones and risk letting him walk for nothing. They're still in a rebuilding phase and not in Stanley Cup-or-bust mode.
But if both Jones and the Blackhawks are serious about a potential long-term extension, it's certainly worth considering. Jones is only 26 years old and would immediately become the No. 1 defenseman, which would check a huge box for a rebuilding team looking to take the next step.
The real question is whether it's worth giving up assets to acquire Jones or if the Blackhawks are better off going after Hamilton instead and trying their luck on Jones if/when he hits the open market next summer. Realistically, they'd have the room to fit both into the equation.
The good news? The Blackhawks certainly have options. And even if they don't land a big fish this offseason, they're well-positioned financially to be big-game hunters in the future.