The movement was, in a word, curious. Keith may have one of the most impressive resumes of any active player, but now there are serious performance issues at the end of his playing career.
General manager Ken Holland defended the decision, citing Keith’s experience and leadership. It’s clear the Edmonton front office believes not only that Keith will strengthen the squad’s top four, but that he will have a positive impact on the Oilers’ star forwards next season.
Maybe Keith will bounce back – there is no doubt he was playing on a rapidly deteriorating Blackhawks team that offered very little support and structure, and his skating ability alone should match a formation from the Oilers who want to play fast.
But a lot has changed in 48 hours. The Minnesota Wild, a day after the trade with Keith, chose to buy out veteran defenseman Ryan Suter. The Florida Panthers followed suit Thursday, buying out Keith Yandle.
Let’s go back to a quote Holland gave after Keith traded to The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman, with particular attention to the price paid by the Oilers organization:
“What, you want me to have it for free?” Want a lower price? Do you want Caleb Jones? Don’t want the draft? Do you want them to retain 50%? Which would you like me to do? Do you want me to make them withhold money? Or do you think I paid too high a price with Caleb Jones and a third round pick? “
It is impossible for outsiders to know what the real trading market is making, and to that end, Holland is right. But now, those who are bearish on a Keith trade must consider a second question: Did being a front runner in this market cost the Oilers?
Acting first in any market tends to bring higher rewards and higher risk. One of the things you consider when designing a trade are the alternatives and the opportunity costs.
At the time of the trade, we can reasonably assume that the Oilers preferred the combination of acquiring Keith and taking charge of some of the expansion draft calculations they are working against instead of signing free-standing defenders. looking for a warrant – Alexander Edler and Dougie Hamilton at the top of this list.
But now you’re adding players like Suter and Yandle to the free agency pool, increasing the supply of talent available for GMs to tap into.
Maybe the Oilers don’t see an opportunity for players like Suter or Yandle. But consider the available supply of veteran defenders (30+, left shooting, looking for short-term deals) in free agency versus the player they acquired from Keith – and consider their respective production these last years :
Holland is trying to build a Stanley Cup contender. Due to salary cap limits (including a hard cap), the Oilers – like many teams – have limited flexibility in terms of what they can do. On top of that, the organization is trying to find the right structure for players to protect in the next expansion project.
On the flip side, there is a remarkable number of veteran defensemen who always contribute in a very positive way, with Suter at the top of this list. If the Oilers’ organization believed that a veteran defenseman who can still play was the answer to what ails them, there were several options only through free agency, and most of those options look much more hopeful. than a player like Keith.
Even lower-level players like Jordie Benn (33, exiting $ 2 million per year contract) and Alec Martinez (33, exiting $ 4 million per year contract) offer intriguing alternatives. , and probably at a lower risk.
Signing one or more of those players may have made another set of moves in line with the Extension Draft, but it would also likely have accomplished the most important thing – adding value to the roster and improving the roster. And if nothing else, the added presence of players like Yandle and Suter readily available in free agency should have depressed the trade price of a player like Keith.
Hockey is like everything else. Timing is everything. If Keith doesn’t perform as Edmonton intended, the Oilers’ off-season movement cadence will be examined in even more detail.
Données via Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, NHL.com