Between now and training camp we’ll breakdown the Blackhawks roster. Today, the top defensive pairing is examined:
Duncan Keith, Defenseman
Experience: Entering his sixth NHL season, all with the Blackhawks.
Contract status: A 13-year, $72 million deal signed during last season kicks in this year. It’s the highest and longest in team history.
Jesse’s take: Like Toews, Keith is coming off a historic season that saw him lead Olympic Canadian defensemen in ice-time, was second in the NHL in that category, won the Norris Trophy, shattered his previous offensive numbers and helped his respective teams win gold in the Olympics and the Stanley Cup. Tough to top. Keith came along quick as a D-man with back-to-back plus/minus ratings of plus-30 and plus-33 before last season, but he came into his own on offense in 2009-10. Look at his progression in points since he entered the league in 2005-2006: 21, 31, 32, 44, 69. That last jump was a big one and placed him second in the league in points for defensemen behind Mike Green. To put those 69 points in further perspective, it was the same total as Jerome Iginla. That offense and his workload for the year may have taken a little away from his defense. His plus/minus was down to plus-21 and Keith and his partner, Brent Seabrook, seemed to tire with the huge workload. But they found a second wind in the playoffs and dominated. It’s possible Keith could increase his assist total with a nifty puck-handling goalie in Marty Turco playing behind him. Twenty goals isn’t out of the question either. Expect more of the same from the hard working, Energizer Bunny on ice.
Brent Seabrook, Defenseman
Experience: Entering his sixth NHL season, all with the Blackhawks
Contract status: Beginning the final season of a three-year deal that pays him $3.5 million per year. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Jesse’s take: Like Keith last year, Seabrook enters the final year of his contract, and if he repeats his performance of a year ago he’s due for a decent raise. He came up through the Hawks organization as a potential power-play pilot but that hasn’t worked out, so his offensive numbers -- while decent -- don’t jump off the page. He’s been around the 30-point mark for his career which is exactly what he produced last year. He provides the perfect complement to the speedy Keith and remains the biggest hitter on defense. He had his dips in the season but with he and Keith setting the bar so high, when they didn’t perform at that level, it was noticeable. At worst he’s a great defensive defenseman. At best, he grows into a weapon on the power play, but there are a lot of candidates for that position. There will be questions on whether the Hawks can re-sign him but they have shown a priority with their defensemen and almost no one could argue that Keith and Seabrook are better together than apart. If the season were to shockingly fall apart, he would be great trade bait at the deadline and would relieve some of the continuing cap pressure. But odds are he signs back with the Hawks maybe even before season’s end.