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FEATURE: Keith brings presence, winning pedigree to Oilers

"It's hard to pass up a player that's got as much experience and success as Duncan has," said Oilers Pres. of Hockey Ops & GM Ken Holland

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Duncan Keith's career is as decked out and decorated as they get, featuring three Stanley Cup championships, two Norris Trophy wins and one unanimous Conn Smythe Trophy victory.

The future Hall of Fame defender isn't settling with all the hardware and longs to prove he still has the legs for more. It won't be with the Chicago Blackhawks, however, where Keith's career began and blossomed.

On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers announced the acquisition of Keith and forward prospect Tim Söderlund from Chicago, sending defender Caleb Jones and a 2022 conditional third-round draft pick the other way. 

Video: RAW | Duncan Keith 07.12.21

"For me, my mindset going to Edmonton is to best the best player I can be because that's what's going to help the team the most; what I do on the ice," Keith told media members during his first availability as an Edmonton Oiler. "I'm excited for the opportunity and challenge that is ahead of me here. I want to bring a strong work ethic and everything starts from that."

The 16-season National Hockey League veteran, spending every minute of his 1,192-game career draped in Original Six Blackhawks threads, also comes to Oil Country with an element of human interest. Keith made it known to Blackhawks President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman that he wanted to relocate West to be closer to his eight-year-old son, Colton.

"Last year was pretty difficult not being able to see him," Keith, chosen by the Blackhawks in Round 2 of the 2002 NHL Draft, said. "I went almost three months without seeing him, had a quick little visit and then another two months without seeing him. As time went on in the off-season, I knew I didn't want to go those long periods of time without seeing him. I'm excited to be closer to him and be able to see him more frequently and have him more involved."

On the Oilers front, President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Ken Holland was notified of Keith's desire to move weeks ago and worked with Bowman over that time to find a deal. At the end of the day, the Oilers executive was happy to bring on board a proven performer with a winning pedigree.

"It's hard to pass up a player that's got as much experience and success as Duncan has," Holland said during his opening remarks on Zoom. "Duncan will help us on the ice but he'll also be a tremendous leader in the locker room."

Video: RAW | Ken Holland 07.12.21

Keith's acquisition came with a heavy price tag in the form of his $5.5 million-dollar cap hit. But as the trade was being configured, Bowman was bullish on not retaining any of Keith's dollar value.

"It's one or the other: either spend more assets and try to get Chicago to retain salary or do a deal," Holland said. "There's a give and a take, and the deal has to work for both teams. I believe I made our team better today because we got a legitimate top-four defenceman."

Holland was also quick to note the impact a player of Keith's calibre can provide in the post-season. Keith was the backbone of the Blackhawks' championship runs, scoring 18 goals and 86 points in 135 career playoff matches.

"We just watched recently the veteran players and the impact that they have on those teams," Holland added. "I think it's because of that experience. That's the hope and belief for what Duncan is going to do with the Edmonton Oilers."

As an Oiler, Keith will look to continue decorating his already distinguished career with more accolades. Joined by the elite talent of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse & Co., he's convinced it could happen.

"My mindset is going to training camp and try to earn the respect of Oilers players and the people of Edmonton," he said. "As I get older and my career moves along, I want to be able to compete at the highest level and win. The Oilers are going to need me to be at my best and I'm aware of it."

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