With Duncan Keith now a member of the Edmonton Oilers another significant part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010s dynasty has left the franchise.
Keith’s departure certainly leaves a hole on the ice and in the locker room, but it also creates some intriguing opportunities and creates a lot of questions for what is ahead in Chicago this offseason.
Let’s take a look at a few things that could be on the horizon.
[Related: Blackhawks trade Duncan Keith to Oilers]
1) Stan Bowman will probably have to speak
Let’s start with this real quick.
Trading one of the most important players in franchise history is always a big moment, and one that you would expect the general manager to field questions about at some point. So it should not really be newsworthy.
But in this case it would be because it would be the first time that Bowman will have to face the media this offseason. That is significant because the Blackhawks are currently facing allegations that a former assistant coach had sexually assaulted two former players during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run. The team is accused of refusing to go to the police when presented with that information. Bowman was the general manager of the team at the time. The team recently hired an outside firm to investigate the allegations. To this point nobody from the Blackhawks organization has spoken publicly on the matter or fielded questions on it.
2) Is Seth Jones even more of a possibility now?
Even before trading Keith the Blackhawks needed to do significant work to their blue line in order to improve, and Seth Jones, currently of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one name that has received some attention.
It seems likely that the Blue Jackets are going to trade him given his contract situation (he is an unrestricted free agent after this season and does not seem willing to re-sign with the team) and the Blackhawks have been rumored to be interested.
Any team that makes such a move is probably going to want some assurance that Jones will be willing to re-sign after this season. The Keith trade might have provided some incentive on that front as Caleb Jones, the defender acquired from Edmonton in exchange for Keith, is Seth’s younger brother.
Jones has become a polarizing player this offseason because there is a pretty significant disconnect between his performance analytically (regressed the past two seasons) and the way scouts and executives still view him (top-pairing defender). He is still only 26 years old (soon to be 27) so it is not like his career is at a point where he should be in a decline, and he does have an impressive track record of being an outstanding player. It is just a matter of him getting back to that level after a couple of down years.
3) Would they make a push for Dougie Hamilton?
With Keith’s contract completely off the books, the Blackhawks now have more than $10 million in salary cap space at their disposal heading into the offseason.
But when you also factor in the the contracts for Andrew Shaw and Brent Seabrook that are going to be placed on the LTIR list this season that creates an additional $9 million in salary cap space to play with.
That means Chicago could add almost $20 million in salary this offseason to its roster, with only Pius Suter and Alex Nylander being key restricted free agents. Neither player should break the bank.
Keeping in mind the fact the Blackhawks have no proven top-pairing defender, Hamilton could be in play. He is not only the best defenseman available on the free agent market, he is one of the best overall defensemen in the NHL and would make an immediate impact for any team he signs with.
The Blackhawks’ rebuild is in a weird place because as long as players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dominik Kubalik, and Alex DeBrincat are still on the roster it is not really a full scale rebuild. So it definitely seems like a possibility that they could make a run at a top free agent.