Duncan Keith a Potential Target for the Montreal Canadiens?

Duncan Keith
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With over a quarter of the season complete, some teams are now settling in and realizing their fate for this season. While no one is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in December, teams also have to be realistic and realize this just isn’t the year. This seems to be the case for the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago currently sits second last in the entire NHL with 26 points. While they may finally be falling from grace, the Montreal Canadiens are on an entirely different path. The Habs are off to a respectable start currently sitting in the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. Sitting with one of the top prospect pools in the entire NHL, the Habs now need to shift focus on positional needs in order to become a legitimate contender.

There’s no denying the Habs are in the market for an experienced top left-handed defenceman to play with Shea Weber. We recently published an article with potential targets for the Habs on the left side. However, it seems we can add another name to that list. His name is Duncan Keith.

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Duncan Keith a Potential Target for the Canadiens?

Marc Bergevin has been in the market for a top left-handed defenceman since he acquired Weber. While coach Claude Julien has tried many different combinations, none have been quite capable of handling the workload of Weber. Brett Kulak has held his own thus far with the Habs captain, but he’s not seen as a long-term solution. If the Habs want to be a true contender, they will need to address this issue.

Insert Duncan Keith.

Pierre LeBrun mentioned on Insider Trading that Duncan Keith is a name that interests him. Keith is currently the oldest player of the Blackhawks core at 35 years of age. He is also a player that LeBrun says a lot of teams general managers have talked about and would target if he is ever made available. Surely, that list includes Marc Bergevin.

So with so many general managers saying they would be making the call to Chicago if Keith is made available, why is Montreal the destination that makes the most sense? Let’s take a look.

Work Relationship Between Bergevin and Stan Bowman

Before taking the general manager position with the Canadiens, Marc Bergevin was working with the Chicago Blackhawks organization where he worked closely with Stan Bowman. Bergevin first served as a professional scout from 2004 until 2008. He then was promoted to assistant coach in 2008 and held that position for one season. Bowman replaced Dale Tallon as general manager on July 14th, 2009, and promoted Bergevin to director of player personnel a day later. Bergevin received another promotion from Bowman on June 15th, 2011 when he was named assistant general manager. Bergevin was hired as the Canadiens general manager on May 2nd, 2012.

Its clear Bowman respected the work of Bergevin as he promoted him twice. This level of respect bodes well in terms of making deals. This benefits well for both parties, especially considering they’re in separate conferences, making them perfect trade partners.

History of Trades

Bergevin and Bowman have already proved they would be great trade partners, as they have completed three trades during Bergevin’s tenure.

The first trade came on February 26th, 2016 right before the trade deadline when the Canadiens traded Dale Weise along with Tomas Fleischmann for Phillip Danault and a second round pick. The Blackhawks were trying to add depth for a playoff run that season and went to Bergevin for some help.

The second trade came that summer when the Blackhawks sent Andrew Shaw to the Habs for two second-round picks. Shaw was in line for a new contract and the Blackhawks were already tight against the cap forcing them to move him. Bergevin and Bowman were able to strike a deal which helped benefit both clubs once again. Shaw was locked up with the Canadiens on a six-year deal worth $23.4 million.

The third trade, albeit not of the same magnitude, sent Andreas Martinsen to the Blackhawks for Kyle Baun. Kyle Baun never dressed for the Canadiens but was a part of the deal which sent Tomas Plekanec to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Rinat Valiev, Kerby Rychel and a second round pick. Martinsen has played a total of 29 games for the Blackhawks, 20 of those coming this season. He has scored two goals and three assists since being acquired from the Habs.

Hurdles on a Potential Deal and Why Montreal?

There are a couple hurdles both teams face in a potential Keith deal. The first is that Duncan Keith holds a full no-move clause in his contract. This means the Blackhawks can’t just move him wherever they want, Keith would need to agree to the trade. The other hurdle is the Blackhawks are currently sitting with 49 players under contract. The maximum allowable under the current collective bargaining agreement is 50. So the Blackhawks would only be allowed to take back a maximum of two players in a Duncan Keith deal.  That said, the Canadiens have plenty of space under the 50 man limit. They could take back a failed or low-valued Blackhawks prospect in order to make the deal work if it becomes more than two pieces for Keith.

So why would Duncan Keith agree to move to the Canadiens? Well, there is no guaranteeing that he would. However, the Canadiens should be an attractive destination for almost any player. Here’s why:

The Canadiens currently hold one of the top prospect pools in the NHL. With so much talent coming up, the Canadiens will be a contender in the near future. With Keith not getting any younger, he surely would like another kick at the can before his retirement.

The Canadiens are also in possession of two of Keith’s former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber. Keith and Weber formed Team Canada’s top defence pairing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Although that was five years ago, the two would still form one of the best defensive pairings in the league.

The Canadiens also boast of two of Duncan Keith’s former teams, Andrew Shaw and Phillip Danault. Shaw and Keith were teammates for two of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championships. Danault had a brief stint as Keith’s teammate in the 2015-16 season before dealt to the Canadiens.

A Deal That Helps Both Teams Now

So how would a trade look that helps both teams now? The Blackhawks still have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane under contract for another four seasons after this one, so the team is not going to go into a full-on rebuild. The Blackhawks would most likely want young NHL ready players that will be able to slot into the roster right away, along with draft picks.

For the Canadiens, they wouldn’t want to sell the farm to bring in a 35-year-old player. They also wouldn’t want to disrupt the current line up too much and create another hole just to fill the current one. So the Canadiens would certainly want to look at dealing players from a position of strength. Currently, for the Habs, that’s on the wing and depth defenceman. Specifically on the right side.

As it stands, Charles Hudon is currently out of the Canadiens lineup. Not because he is not skilled enough, strictly because the Canadiens are deep on the wing. Hudon is capable of playing in the middle six. He’s a fast skilled forward who doesn’t mind going into the dirty areas of the ice and mix it up with the other team’s defence.

The other position of strength for the Habs is on the right side on defence. As it stands, the Habs right side consists of Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Noah Juulsen. Having such a strong group keeps NHL capable players like Brett Lernout and Cale Fleury out of the Canadiens lineup. Fleury isn’t quite NHL ready, but he will be very soon and is currently playing his first full season in the AHL with the Laval Rocket.

Another interesting option for the Blackhawks would be defenceman Mike Reilly. Reilly is a solid puck-moving defenseman who plays the left side but hasn’t quite filled the top-six role that the Habs were hoping for. However, he would be a cheaper depth option for the Blackhawks to fill a hole on the left side. They could then use that extra cap to strengthen their roster elsewhere.

Keith has four more seasons after this one at $5.5 million per year against the Cap.  The Canadiens have plenty of cap room and could certainly absorb that deal now. However, they need to consider the length of the deal and having a 38 and 39-year-old Keith on such a contract as it winds down.

A Deal to be Had

Let’s face it. The Blackhawks are not just going to let their top defenceman go for nothing. The Canadiens are also not crying to trade their youth. Bergevin has made it clear that he would like to be younger and faster. However, you need the right mix of youth and veterans to become a contender.

A combination of the players mentioned along with picks should be able to get the deal done.

For the Blackhawks, they get younger, free up cap space, and pick up draft picks to help better their future.

For the Canadiens, they finally pick up the top left-hand defenceman to compliment their captain Shea Weber.

All things considered, Duncan Keith to the Canadiens just makes sense.

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