Monday's NHL: Blackhawks trade Keith to Oilers for Jones, 3rd-rounder

Associated Press
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Chicago — The Chicago Blackhawks traded two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday for young defenseman Caleb Jones and a third-round draft pick.

The Blackhawks also sent forward Tim Soderlund to the Oilers, who were looking for some help on defense after they were swept by Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs. The 2022 draft pick becomes a second-rounder if Edmonton reaches next year's Stanley Cup Final and Keith is among the top four Oilers defensemen in total ice time through three rounds.

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) plays against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn.

No salary was retained in the first blockbuster trade of the NHL offseason since the Stanley Cup. Keith has two years left on his contract at a salary-cap hit just over $5.5 million. He turns 38 on Friday.

Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said Keith “will go down as one of the best and most driven defensemen this game has ever seen.”

“Recently, Duncan came to us with a request to be traded to a team closer to his son and we were happy to work something out that was mutually beneficial for Duncan’s family and the future of the Blackhawks,” Bowman said in a release. "We appreciate all he has contributed to our team and the City of Chicago and his legacy will always be celebrated.”

Keith is the latest member of Chicago’s three-time Stanley Cup-winning core to depart while the embattled Blackhawks attempt to rebuild their roster amid an investigation into sexual assault allegations from their 2010 championship run.

Longtime defense partner Brent Seabrook announced his retirement in March because of injuries. Blue-line staple Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to Arizona in 2017. Captain Jonathan Toews said he expects to play in 2021-22 after missing this past season with an illness.

Jones just turned 24 and has 95 regular-season and playoff games of NHL experience. The brother of Columbus defenseman Seth Jones is under contract through next season at a salary of $850,000, slightly above the league minimum.

“Caleb Jones is a smooth skating, versatile defenseman who brings a well-rounded game to the Blackhawks," Bowman said. “Caleb transitions the puck nicely with his legs or through outlet passes. He brings some size to our group, and we believe his best hockey is in front of him.”

This move could make the Blackhawks a more attractive suitor for Seth Jones, who is a year away from unrestricted free agency and being shopped by the Blue Jackets this summer. Jones has some control over where he plays next based on which teams he would and would not sign a long-term extension with.

Keith had all the power over his destination thanks to the full no-movement clause that was included in the $72 million, 13-year contract he signed in 2009. This trade allows Chicago to take another rebuilding step and puts Keith closer to home.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native goes to a contender in Edmonton that has the past two Hart Trophy winners as league MVP: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the latter of whom is considered the best player in hockey. The Oilers have long struggled to keep the puck out of their net and won only one playoff series since drafting McDavid in 2015.

That was just after Keith won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in leading the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons. Keith won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman in 2010 and 2014 in the midst of Chicago's championship era.

Keith has 625 points in 1,192 regular-season games since the Blackhawks drafted him in the second round in 2002. More importantly, he has 86 points in 135 playoff games, averaging 28 minutes of ice time.

More of Monday's NHL

Former player unlikely to participate in Blackhawks review

Chicago — An attorney who represents a former Chicago Blackhawks player who alleges he was sexually assaulted by a then-assistant coach in 2010 is open to the possibility of her client participating in the team's review of the accusations under certain conditions.

A former federal prosecutor has been hired by the Blackhawks to conduct what the team says is an independent investigative review of the allegations in a pair of lawsuits filed against the team. In an internal memo sent on June 28, CEO Danny Wirtz said Reid Schar and Jenner & Block LLP "have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

The first suit alleges sexual assault by former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and the second was filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents the former player and student, said Monday that her clients were open to participating in the review by Jenner & Block. But she said they want to know more about the parameters of the investigation, and they want the opportunity to conduct their own interviews of key former and current team executives.

“We've never been told what the investigation includes,” Loggans said. “For example, are they just investigating whether or not sexual misconduct occurred, which seems to be very evident that it did, or are they going to investigate whether the Blackhawks knowingly allowed it to exist without doing anything? They've never said what they're investigating.”

Loggans also said the Blackhawks haven't said anything about what if any part of the review would be made available after it was completed, or what they plan to do with the results.

Loggans said an attorney from Jenner & Block asked if he could interview her clients, and she asked for more information and the chance to interview one or more team executives under the same terms for speaking to her clients.

“They responded, saying they really couldn't do that,” Loggans said.

A message was left Monday seeking comment from the Blackhawks. In his June 28 memo, Wirtz said the team would refrain from further comment until the independent review and legal proceedings had concluded.

In his lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, the former player says Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The suit also alleges Aldrich assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”

The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.

According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behavior by Aldrich. Vincent said he asked mental skills coach James Gary to follow up with the players and management.

Vincent was called into a meeting with then-team President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and Gary the next day. He said he asked the team to report the allegations to Chicago police, and the request was denied.

Vincent said Monday in an email to the AP that he had not been contacted by Jenner & Block.

An attorney for Aldrich told Chicago public radio station WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, the Blackhawks said the allegations directed at it were groundless.

After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders.

The former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting filed a separate lawsuit against the Blackhawks on May 26, saying the team provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.

That suit says the student was a hockey player at Houghton High School near Hancock in 2013 when Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering.

Houghton police records say an investigator reached out to the Blackhawks about Aldrich, but human resources executive Marie Sutera would confirm only that he was once an employee. She requested a search warrant or subpoena for any further information regarding Aldrich.

Miami University in Ohio also has opened an investigation. Aldrich was employed by the school from June 2012 to November 2012. He resigned “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult,” the university’s attorney told police.

A spokeswoman for the school said Monday it was aware of two accusations of sexual assault involving Aldrich.

"In November 2012, Miami University was made aware of allegations of an off-campus sexual assault involving a non-student adult and Brad Aldrich," Jessica Rivinius said in an email to the AP. "When the Miami University Police Department reached out to the alleged victim, they offered to assist the individual in filing a police report with the Oxford Police Department. The individual declined to make a report.

“A second adult alleged victim came forward in 2018 and filed a police report with Miami University Police about an assault that occurred off-campus in 2012. That report was forwarded to the Oxford Police Department.”

Rivinius said the review of Aldrich’s employment at Miami is being conducted by Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and the school plans to release a report at the conclusion of the investigation.

► Kraken on track for home arena to be ready by mid-October

Seats have been bolted into position throughout the upper deck and into the lower bowl. All the concrete has been poured and on the floor of Climate Pledge Arena, the outline of the rink is waiting to be covered in ice.

Builders say the home for the newest NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken, remains on schedule to be ready by the middle of October, when the NHL season is expected to begin.

“It’s just making certain that everything’s done quality, top quality, because really, we’re into the finish work now,” Ken Johnsen, construction executive with Oak View Group, said Monday. “The biggest issue is just getting the work done, making certain that it’s ready to be turned over and ready to go.”

It’s not a mad rush, but it is a compressed schedule to get most of the work done to have the building ready for the Kraken to begin about three months from now. It’s expected there will be a week of festivities including musical acts surrounding the first Kraken home game, but indications are Seattle will begin its first NHL season on the road. The league schedule is expected later this month or early August.

Seattle announced last week that its home preseason games will be played at three different locations around Washington state in venues used by teams in the Western Hockey League. While it’s great outreach for the first-year franchise, it’s also necessary as Johnsen said the arena will likely be undergoing systems testing around the time of the first preseason game on Sept. 26.

The construction team expects 93% of the project to be completed by the end of July and has more than 1,000 workers on site.

“We really want by mid-September, we want to be in really good shape where we feel like everything is in place, and then you test, and you test and you test ... You check everything,” Johnsen said.

The building — constructed under the original roof of the Seattle Center Coliseum — will likely have a final price tag of more than $1 billion. Construction included supporting the 44 million-pound historic roof on temporary supports while dirt was dug out of the former bowl to create a massive increase in space to roughly 800,000 square feet.

The bigger arena is noticeable when standing on the floor, but in the seating bowl, the building feels intimate with clear sight lines of the ice or basketball court. The arena will be home to the WNBA's Seattle Storm, and fans hope the NBA will return sometime in the future.

“We have a tight schedule. We’re gonna make it but there’s just a lot of work to be done,” Johnsen said.

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