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Darnell Nurse’s Next Contract Might Save The Oilers From Acquiring Duncan Keith

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The Oilers are likely going to go big on Darnell Nurse’s next deal. It might be enough to put the brakes on a potential deal for Duncan Keith

Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Talks of three time Stanley Cup Champion Duncan Keith possibly getting dealt to Edmonton were all the rage as of last night. They’ve continued into today, but the Oilers may have to get creative in order for the cap space to work.

Duncan Keith has had a masterful career. He’s a decorated three time Stanley Cup Champion. He’s got two Norris trophies, he’s been selected to multiple All-Star games. He’s also about to be 38 years of age. Asking this player for significant minutes as a second pairing defenceman is a tough ask, but Holland has said that he would like some more veterans in the lineup. At this juncture, Keith fits that bill.

He’s gotten most of his money earlier in his deal, but a cap hit of just over 5.5 million applies for 2021-22 and 2022-23. I cannot explain to you through this medium how little I’d want that to happen for Edmonton in a summer where they’re expected to acquire major roster pieces. There’s always a chance that the Blackhawks could hold up to 50% of the cap space if a deal got done, but it doesn’t sound like something Chicago would wish to pursue at this time.

As of this writing, the Oilers look like they’d have to take on 100% of Duncan Keith’s cap hit in any deal. While Holland might try to move heaven and the earth to acquire Duncan Keith, a 5.5MM cap hit for two years might be a sticking point that the Oilers can’t overcome.

The Oilers might unintentionally have an ace up their sleeve that could potentially slam the door on the possiblity of acquiring Duncan Keith. I’m talking about Darnell Nurse’s next contract, which the Oilers are reportedly looking to sign soon. Nurse has one year remaining on his current contract valued at 5.6MM, it’s expected that his next deal could reach as high as 8MM AAV or more. Depending on how many multi-year free agents the Oilers bring in this offseason, the purse strings could be tighter than originally planned starting in 2022-23.

If the Oilers are close to the cap (which is expected to remain flat for at least a few years), acquiring Duncan Keith may become prohibitive. Duncan Keith has played a ton of minutes in Chicago as recently as this year, he struggled quite a bit at evens. The Oilers would reduce his minutes in Edmonton on the second pair, but there’s a huge gamble as to whether or not a soon-to-be 38 year old defenceman can regain a step or two that he’s lost over the last several years in Chicago. Should Oscar Klefbom be unable to play this season, the Oilers might have to consider acquiring a defenceman via the trade route. Given his performance over the last five years, acquiring Duncan Keith is not advisable in my opinion.

The Oilers are going to go big on Darnell Nurse’s next deal, there’s almost no chance they do otherwise. While there’s room for discussion about a potential Nurse deal being too rich at 8MM a year, it might do the Oilers a solid by keeping a cap heavy Duncan Keith at bay during the twilight of his career.

Seattle is nice, too.