What is Duncan Keith’s Value in Chicago?

Duncan Keith has become a whipping boy for Blackhawks fans since winning the Norris Trophy in 2010. Perception is that his play has dropped off, and some fans consider him a player that could be traded.

Is Keith really expendable?

No, Keith isn’t expendable.

Are there moments from Keith that make fans scratch their head? Absolutely. Have beer sales at the United Center been directly impacted by his play over the last couple seasons? Certainly.

But a realistic look at what Keith brings to the Blackhawks indicates he’s still an elite defenseman, and someone the team cannot afford to replace.

Only four defensemen in the NHL have reached the 40-point plateau in each of the last four seasons: Keith, Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber and Dan Boyle. Of course the last two Norris winners have been Chara and Keith, and both Weber and Chara are nominated again this year.

Six other players have reached 40 points in three of the last four years, a group that includes retired Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Also reaching 40 points three times in the last four years have been Dennis Wideman, Keith Yandle, Christian Ehrhoff, and Mark Streit.

Only 56 different defensemen have reach the 40-point mark over the last four years total. What Keith has been able to produce on a yearly basis over the last four seasons puts him in elite company.

But it isn’t only his offensive production that would be hard to replace.

Only three defensemen in the NHL have averaged over 25 minutes per game in each of the last four seasons: Keith, Chara and Jay Bouwmeester. Indeed, Keith has been either first or second in the league in average ice time for a defenseman in each of the last three seasons. Only 25 different defensemen have averaged over 25 minutes on ice in a season over the last four years.

Keith’s combination of durability and production are incredibly rare. If we combine those two statistics, we find only two defensemen in the NHL that have averaged over 25 minutes per game and registered more than 40 points in each of the last four seasons: Keith and Chara, who happen to be the last two players to win the Norris Trophy.

Now for arguably the most important frame of reference: cost. Keith’s cap hit of $5,538,462 ranked 13th among NHL defensemen last year. His contract’s relative affordability will only continue to improve as Ryan Suter undoubtedly passes him on the list and Weber signs a long-term deal with a cap hit well above Keith’s figure this summer.

At the end of the day, fans have every right to want, indeed to expect better play from the former Norris Trophy winner. And the argument has been made that his partner on the Blackhawks’ blue line, Brent Seabrook, has eclipsed him as the best defenseman on the roster in Chicago.

But to argue Keith should be replaced is based more on emotion than fact. Reality indicates that there simply aren’t many players in the NHL – one to be exact – that bring to the table what Keith has been for the Blackhawks over the last few years.

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32 Responses to What is Duncan Keith’s Value in Chicago?

  1. wall says:

    Tab, Point Taken… however, to be fair and consistent… Based on your argument for Keith-

    Brian Campbell was not expendable either- Your Stats are very helpful…
    Of course they never tell the whole story… Brian Campbell was left off of this “STATS” list “over 40 pt.” for both last 4 years and 3 of 4 years… but in reality he missed alot of games and AVERAGED over 40 points a year for the last 7 years… as has Keith…

    I have been one of the biggest bashers of Keith and his Norris Trophy… My argument has always been the TEAM one the Trophy… not Keith!
    Your article is correct Keith is very hard to replace (maybe irreplaceable)… but the same argument holds for Campbell… AND we (Bowman) really didn’t use the cap space money… Bottom line is we had 3 IRREPLACEABLE top 10 D-MEN, in 2010!

    As much as I have bashed Keith… I realize his ability and you could only move him for a Weber/Doughty type!!! Especially w/ no Soupy!

  2. Brad Stevenson says:

    I agree 100% with Wall…based on your argument Tab, Campbell should not have been traded…Bowman did NOT have to move Campbell’s contract for any other reason than for Rocky Wirtz…if Wirtz was going to have to pay extra for both Huet, then something, financially, had to give…

    When we look back at the deal to move Campbell FOR RUSTY OLESCZ, and then do NOTHING with the extra cap space, the only possible explanation is mine…the Wirtz demanded Huet’s salary be cut somewhere from the team…and that was All Star Brian Campbell…

    If we were only a point from 4th in the conference without Soupy this year, imagine where we would have been with him??? Maybe 1st overall??? Quite possible…so for Bowman to deal Campbell for Olescz was reckless, when you add that he did nothing with the salary cap space, it became INSANE, and Stan Bowman may be many things but reckless and insane are NOT two of them…

    Bowman was ordered to do this, and he did…Rocky Wirtz refused to pay for Huet’s salary on top of everything else, the result? We lost Campbell.

    As for Keith, he is what he is…a great puck possession DMan…when we don’t execute this system, he is exposed…that is why strong Centres are a must on this hockey team…Pat Kane, Marcus Kruger and Dave Bolland are not these guys, and yet this is EXACTLY what we, as fans, are going to have to deal with next season…Wirtz is NOT going to authorize anymore spending until such time the labour situation is ratified and Olescz’s contract is gone…so for next year our Centre lineup is going to be Kane and Mayers, with a combination of Bolland, Kruger and likely Kane in between them.

    Brutal…

  3. Kurt says:

    I too am growing tired of all the hype for keith… I wouldn’t give him away without expecting something major back. Additionally, just because he plays a lot of minutes, they are not productive minutes.

    To elevate his game, I suggest keeping keith and reducing his minutes down to average of 21-22. My suspicion is that his overall play would be much better. True he is an above average “offensive” defensemen…. but his “defense” is only average.

    Last year I witnessed him pull short and not put the extra effort. I attribute this to his excessive minutes.

    We need more out of our 2nd pairing as well as development/trust in the 3rd pairing, to elevate Keith/Seabrook.

  4. Brad Stevenson says:

    You are right Kurt, the best thing that can happen to Keith is being moved to the 2nd pairing, off the PK, and his ice time reduced to 21-22 minutes a game…I think that we would get what is called addition by subtraction…more from less…

    One other note, I would like to encourage everyone to check out Jesse Rogers outstanding blog yesterday on the Hawks 2 years after winning the Cup, and John Jaeckels piece today…these are must reads IMO.

  5. John says:

    I thought Keith had a much stronger year this past season. Most of his mistakes seem to come when he is asked to play ridiculous minutes. He rarely hits people, excluding Daniel, and I think that is why a lot of people find it easy to bash him. Seabrook is a more prototypical defenseman, but I’d rather see Keith one on one because he is fantastic at playing the puck. Now if he can just find a way to get shots back on the net next season, it’ll be a further improvement over 2011 and 2012

  6. well i think its time to either tell wirtz to shut upor get rid of boman. the hawks were a very good team. then because of a stupid nhl pay scale they supposly had to get rid of players. and mr bowman did a wonderful job of destroying a great team.

  7. Tim M. says:

    Duncan Keith not expendable. Check!
    And if there are those who think Seabrooke surpassed him, take into account Seabrooke’s season right after the Cup victory, when it looked like he was wallowing in fresh cement at times. Some called it just plain loafing.
    It may not happen, but give both guys just a little less ice time, and find talent to help in getting entries out of the zone and cut down on the turnovers.
    Here’s hoping Keith has a bit of a rebound year this upcoming season like Seabrooke did this past season.

  8. Dave says:

    Well then, maybe the Bruins won the Norris and not Chara. Same with the other winners of the Norris.

  9. Dave says:

    Supposedly, Robert? Did you see the contracts? Even the beat reporters knew players had to be gone! To John—that isn’t Keith’s game. Take a look at hit hit stats from the Cup year. he placed FOURTEENTH on the TEAM! Not the league, the team! To Brad—when has Jesse Rogers ever written ANYTHING of relevance. Or even Jaekel? Rogers and ESPN are a perfect fit—neither know hockey! Plus, Brad, once Huet went to Europe, his contract did not count against the cap. And to say Campbell didn’t need to be moved……

  10. wall says:

    Dave, to some degree the “Team/System/Goalie” for Boston did win the Norris Too…

    2010 Hawks-
    Hawks 2010 team was special and DOMINANT!
    As mentioned- 3 of the top 10-15 D-Men in Hockey…
    Offensive Puck possession better then any at time!
    IMO- one of best teams in last decade!

  11. Tab Bamford says:

    wall – that’s why the money component is so important. The $2M difference between Campbell & Keith is enormous in a world where the salary cap matters (this isn’t baseball).

  12. Dickie Dunn says:

    Dave – “when has Jesse Rogers ever written ANYTHING of relevance” This is probabaly the exception – “(Special players show their talents on special teams more than anywhere else, and the Hawks were an embarrassment on both the power play and the penalty kill this past season.) It exposed their lack of work ethic and, frankly, their lack of desire.” – I believe he’s correct. How many times were they outplayed? Especially annoying against teams they *should* beat.

    Keith – during the 2011 season (Year of the Cup Hangover), maybe there was a good reason – half the team changed. Last season, I thought he wasn’t much better. I don’t know if it’s too many minutes or “trying to do too much” (cliche), but his decision making at times was UNbelievably poor. I never suggested trading him.

    “the money component is so important” – Tab is SO right! I believe Bowman kept the right players after 2010. Sure, it would’ve been great to keep Ladd and Niemi (I blame his agent for that), but who would they move? Sharp? Byfuglien was terrific (and then some vs Phl) during the playoffs, but does anyone besides me remember him being invisible in more than half of the regular season games (may have figured into Bowman’s choice)? Bowman didn’t *have* to move Brouwer – hindsight says that was a mistake. Maybe they expected Bickell would improve? Maybe collecting first round picks is necessary to keep a pool of young talent? I hope the Hawks are as good as Bowman says he believes they are. We’ll see.

  13. Tuke says:

    @Dickie Dunn, As is, the Hawks are nowhere near as good as Stan thinks they are.

  14. Biggs says:

    Nice Blog, but both Duncan and Seab’s are studs. Looking for the next four!

  15. Dickie Dunn says:

    Biggs — Leddy is on the way. A bit of silver lining/half-full – he gained valuable experience (in pressure situations). He looks like there is a lot of upside (unless he pulls a Hjalmarsson and plateaus/regresses)…he could be another Keith.

  16. Morrison says:

    Stevenson, Wall, & Stanford you guys are the ‘quantis’ of posters. I agree with you on things. I want to think that, like before we are for what is better for the team & not what is $/NY Skanks/a fixed sport like baseball…

    As good as our detfenseman are then, we had a deeeeep group of fowards. Everything you guys point out are true, but its all of the 18 players together that put Keith,etc. over the top(for them) that group of fowards were great combined…

    This center thing is beciming a joke, either get who we need their or just do what we did in 2008, 09 & 10…. more good fowards overall. I agree the faceoff is huge as a natural center… Lets get anyone who we need. Its easy for me to say, when Im not signing the checks. Does Bowman pay for them himself, whats the issue Common man. Get your shit togehter… LETS GO NOW. We need the adminstration & the people to be on board. ONE GOAL, thats what we did before, lets do it again. DO IT, DO IT (like the golf commercial)

  17. shamrock says:

    Lets face it. No player on this team is “untouchable”. The closest to that label is Toews. Regarding Keith, I dont see what makes him that special that we cant explore moving him if the right trade is available. There is no doubt that Keith is a great skater and can eat up lots of minutes. So what. As I have stated before he is not a good hitter and he hasnt made the power play better. He is an 8 million dollar a year player who is 28 years old and who has stalled as a player. A good GM has to recognize when a player is no longer progressing or making a difference and then move that player while he has value. This is what I think need to happen with Keith. He still has value and is just under 30 years old which may make him attractive to teams. We have had the same “core” players and havent advanced past the first round in 2 years. While I would love Keith to stay and see the team get back to the finals, I just dont see that happening. Out of all the core players I feel that he is best option to trade. I am not saying give him away or that he is the sole reason the team has had playoff problems but the time is if not here, extremely close to making major changes.

  18. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Excellent column, consider me in the trade Keith camp. Although the forty point mark is a nice accomplishment I feel that Keith can be moved for a nice return. In my opinion Keith is a good defenseman but isnt a PK or PP stud. He does eat up a ton of minutes, but the Hawks overall defense the last 2 seasons has been average at best and their special teams have been below average. I’m not saying give the guy away but if the right packages comes up, make the move. I really don’t see anyone untouchable on this roster outside of Toews. As for Campbell is Tallon had signed Soupy to a manable deal he would still be here. I liked Campbells play @ times but not for 7 million a season. Go Hawks!

  19. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Shamrock,…I was writing my comment @ the same time I didnt copy I swear. Sounds like you and I are in agreement

  20. Tab Bamford says:

    Open question for those still in favor of trading Keith: then what?

    Teams don’t trade top-pair defensemen, much less 25 min/gm defensemen. The Hawks moved Campbell because they had two of those guys, and didn’t think they needed to continue spending $7M on a second pair d-man. It’s great to say “I don’t like the guy” and “Trade him, he isn’t untouchable.” But there needs to be follow-through to the next level of your comment. Are you ready for Nick Leddy to play 26 minutes a night because he has to? The odds of the Hawks getting equal value back for Keith in one individual player are slim/none, so that’s the reality you’re advocating.

  21. Jim says:

    I can’t believe that this is even up for debate. No way is Keith a tradeable commodity. Too many posters bringing emotion into it and not reality. I agree with tab.

  22. Dickie Dunn says:

    I completely agree with Tab – “trading Keith: then what?”. (I also agree with everybody saying only Toews is “untouchable”…if any current Hawks falls into that category.) Certainly Keith has great value – he should bring a #1 center in return, which would solve that #2 center issue so many feel is the team’s prime concern. But, “then what?”. I like Leddy a LOT, but I’m not sure he’s ready to move up into filling that void. Maybe? The Hawks would be as strong as just about anybody “up the middle”, but the defense would look something like: Seabrook, Leddy, _____, Oduya, Hjalmarrson, Olson? (I would like to see the Montador who played against the Hawks 2-3 years ago…where is he? Recovery from the concussion is a big “?”.) Stan Bowman could make a move like this if he was able to sign Suter, but what are the odds? There would still very likely be trouble (more moves necessary to deal) with the cap. I believe it’s interesting to discuss, but probably not going to happen.

  23. shamrock says:

    No one is saying give Keith away. He is a GOOD player and as I said I would love to see him with the Hawks return to the finals. The deal has to be right. The problem is defining what is the right deal? The answer depends on what the Bowmans know. Do they think Leddy is ready or do they want to add a single established player? Do you use Keith to add a 2nd line center or get a D-man? Maybe use Keith to add a couple of players? We have no choice but to believe that the Bowmans know this team and what they need better than outsiders to become champs again. As for the question “then what?” that could be asked of those who feel Keith is untouchable. We keep him then what? We hope that things turn around? If we have another 1 and done playoff series is he expendable then? Like I wrote earlier the window is closing on the Hawks and to get better is going to require bold moves with good, fan favorite players getting moved. Detroit is going to add Suter and/or Parise possibly. The Hawks have to be bold as well but not stupid.

  24. Brad Stevenson says:

    Keith should stay, but we MUST address the Defence…move Hammer’s contract and sign Ryan Suter…or keep Hammer, and sign a true Top 3 DMan to round out the group…

    Suter-Keith
    Sebs-Leddy
    Olsen-FA

    or

    Sebs-Keith
    Wideman-Leddy
    Hammer-Olsen

    Either way, the D has to improve.

  25. Dickie Dunn says:

    Maybe it’s like Shamrock says – they need a bold move. I don’t know? I don’t think it’s only on the defensemen. Crawford had an off year (- I hope that it was just something like “sophomore jinx” and not “career minor leaguer” as some have opined). To me, it looks like the *team* defense has declined. Maybe coach Q is no longer in control/no longer effective? (Hard to believe – he even had Havlat playing some defense before he was let go…) PP and PK the same? (“work ethic” and “lack of desire”) I don’t understand it – the Hawks have no shortage of skilled players on their special teams yet they sucked. I would have no problem with moving Keith in “the right deal” (as Shamrock said) – a deal that, “bottom line”, improves the team. Obviously, it is up to Stan Bowman. (Congratz to Darryl Sutter!!)

  26. Dickie Dunn says:

    Any thoughts on a Keith-for-Nash deal? Of course, they would have to be other players included to balance it out. (Methot, Stalberg, Gillies, Frolik, Bickell…prospects, whoever) It’s only discussion – I seriously doubt that Stan Bowman reads this stuff….

  27. Tab Bamford says:

    Sorry, Dickie. No way I do that as Chicago or Columbus.

    From the Jackets perspective, their payroll is blue line heavy already w/ Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and a couple other long-term deals already on the books. Keith doesn’t help that situation.

    From the Hawks perspective, why would you sacrifice an area of need (defense) and fill in the gaps of the proposed deal by swapping depth from a playoff team for depth on the worst team in hockey?

  28. Dickie Dunn says:

    Thank you, Tab. Good points. I didn’t consider payroll (except Nash – several years at $$$$) – just that Nash will almost certainly be traded, and further discussion of Keith’s value. I’m not sure I see the defensemen as an area of need – Seabrook, Keith, Leddy, Oduya, Hjalmarsson are a pretty good 1-to-5. If they can get 18 skaters playing in three zones defense wouldn’t be a problem. (That sounds easy enough…)

  29. kent says:

    The more I think of all the armchair GM ideas. The more I believe Stan and Rocky will take a very LONG look at the rookies this year. Unfortunetly I hope this will not be a mini rebuild and almost waste a year. I truely believe in mgt. The hard part is getting to the destination of winning THE CUP the way you see it being won . Every year it is a little different. Somethings are the always the same. Kieth gives us a great advantage in being able to move the puck across their blue line. A much needed commodity for a winning team.Our board play needs work , this is desire size AND grit. If everyone would follow Tazer we will see a new team. Clearing OUR crease is the biggest thing to correct. There has to be a fear of getting wacked . Being pushed around on the boards AND in the crease is hard to watch. Tab has the pulse on this issue. I would keep Kieth and sign Suter 1st if possible, if not then look for a 2nd center that can match up and win draws. If we do [signing Suter]Hammer is gone AND do something with Fro , AHL? He needs pactience with puck and learn to shoot w/ head up . I still think he has upside but not worth 2.3 as a 3rd line checker. I like Brads def. including Suter Kieth Seabs. This gives options but will limit how many rookies Q can look at. I notice no one is including Monty on any pairings . ?? any reasons? If its his play would Wideman do better? All say he is a defencive liability dont need more of that. Hopefully Brad is not right on Rock not wanting to spend more money on Fla. picks Huet may come off but Oletz ? and maybe Fro stays on. If it turns out that way I cant wait until Dale`s tallons are off so we can be free to see Bowman`s way clearly. Thank you Dale for building a winner P S Way to go L.A. Did you know that Van. lost to the STANLEY CUP CHAMP 3 tears in a row ? Glad we got the 1st punch in. Sorry could not resist. hope to do it next year. GO HAWKS

  30. kent says:

    Forgot to mention Kieth`s contract is big money up front with smaller cap hit , moving to smaller dollars and bigger cap hit. Do you think this makes him more or less attrctive to an owner and when is it best to trade? Hoss has the same but wider margins.

  31. Rich says:

    Everybody has to remember that this is a business. We all have our favorites and want to see them retire as a Blackhawk. Bottom line is production versus paycheck. There are alot of talented players in the league that would look good in a Hawk jersey, but it is not going to happen. The best bang for the buck is keep the core somewhat intact. Addition by subtraction will happen not matter what the fans want. The UC will still be sold out and the bucks will still keep coming in, it all depends who the Bowmans want to keep and who Q wants on the team. Some changes will be made but don’t look for anything major to happen unless the earth moves Rocky to make a radical change with his “STAR PLAYERS.”

    Maybe they decide to explore the Kaner thing, maybe Hammer, Crow, who knows, but expect to see almost all of the same guys back next year. Give them one more year of a first round exit and then you will see MAJOR changes.

  32. E says:

    This Shamrock kid is derp. First of all, Keith makes 5.5, not 8. That was one of Tab’s points. You have guys like Doughty making 8, we get Dunc 2.5 cheaper. You don’t get rid of a top pair d man on a team that’s lacking defense to improve its offense. And moving Keith for another D man is silly, Keith is solid defensively, produces, and plays the most minutes. Do you remember what happened when Keith was suspended, and Leds had to eat up the minutes? Yeah, me too. As for the prospect of moving him for a bunch of players, that’s effing stupid. We have plenty of players in Rockford, and an NHL team can only have 23 players on a roster. I don’t exactly know what caliber of ‘a bunch of players’ you think we’d get for Keith, but either way, bad idea.

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