Keith retires from NHL after 17 seasons, finishes with Oilers

Duncan Keith retired from the NHL on Tuesday after 17 seasons.

The defenseman, who will turn 39 on July 16, had 21 points (one goal, 20 assists) in 64 regular-season games with the Edmonton Oilers this season and five points (one goal, four assists) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He had one season remaining on a 13-year, $72 million contract ($5.53 million average annual value) he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3, 2009.

“I think the last few years, as you get to a certain age, you evaluate how you’re feeling, how your body’s feeling,” Keith said. “I always took pride in my training and being ready. It just felt the last few years, there was a change in how I felt. I still love the game, always will, but with the change and getting older … and the thought of being around my son more and being around him and his hockey, being able to help my brother coach our boys and his daughter, more and more it got closer to that and the more excited I became about that thought.

“It’s never an easy decision. I think there’s part of me that knows I could still play, and I think that’s how I wanted to go out, knowing I still had some game left in me, and I’m relatively healthy. That’s basically where my mindset was at.”

Keith played his first 16 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015), before he was traded to the Oilers on July 12, 2021, for defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional draft pick. Edmonton also received forward Tim Soderlund.

[RELATED: Keith remembered for ‘pushing himself to highest level’ with Blackhawks]

Edmonton was 49-27-6 and finished second in the Pacific Division. He defeated the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the Western Conference First Round and the Calgary Flames in five games in the Second Round before being swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the Conference Finals.

“I really wanted to win the Cup this past year, and I know coming here we had a lot of great players, a lot of great pieces,” Keith said. “You never know if you can win the Cup. I knew we’d have a chance, made it to the Final Four, and that’s pretty special.

“Obviously there are some steps that need to continue there, but knowing Edmonton is right there, close, it does make it a good feeling, knowing we were close and we had a successful season. There were a lot of ups and downs, but every season’s like that whether you win or lose at the end. Being able to play with such a great group of guys, it made it memorable and special, for sure, to be able to go out not quite on top, but knowing it was a great run with a lot of great memories. Third round, it’s a lot of hockey, and it was a lot of fun this past year.”

Keith finished with 646 points (106 goals, 540 assists) in 1,256 regular-season games with the Blackhawks and Oilers, and 91 points (19 goals, 72 assists) in 151 playoff games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as the most valuable player of the playoffs in 2015, when he had 21 points (three goals, 18 assists) in 23 games.

He is second in games played in Blackhawks history (1,192) behind Stan Mikita (1,396), sixth in assists (520) and 10th in points (625). He is seventh in Chicago history with 86 points (18 goals, 68 assists) in 135 playoff games.

“The Blackhawks have had many a great defenseman come through here. But when you look at ‘Duncs,’ and I’m looking at the complete package, to me, he is the greatest defenseman to ever play for the Blackhawks,” said Eddie Olczyk, a former Blackhawks player and current broadcaster. “You look at the defensemen who have played here, whether they came via trade or they were home grown or whatever, but when you look at individual awards, team awards, you look at the numbers, you look at the durability, a guy who can play in any era, to me he’s on the top of that list.”

Keith won the Norris Trophy voted as the best defenseman in the NHL in 2010 and 2014, the same years he was also named to the NHL First All-Star Team.

A second-round pick (No. 54) by the Blackhawks in the 2002 NHL Draft, Keith was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017 as part of the NHL’s Centennial celebration.

“He was really focused on hockey and did whatever it took to make his game the best and obviously he is one of the best defensemen in the last 20 years and he’s one of the top 100 all-time players who probably will be in the Hall of Fame.” train Blackhawks teammate Bryan Bickell said. “Medals and Cups and trophies he’s won, he’s definitely had a great career. Nice to see him play in Edmonton last year, because he’s from that province and he wanted to be near his son. It was something cool to see him still doing his thing. I’m sure he can still do it, but he’s put a lot of miles on those bones.” independent correspondent Derek Van Diest contributed to this report


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