Keith due for a raise

Defenseman's agent expected in town soon

September 8, 2009, 7:52 PM

By: Jesse Rogers

Duncan Keith

Andrew Weber/US Presswire

Expect Duncan Keith to sign a long-term deal with the Hawks at some point this season.

In my first post, on Sept. 1, I mentioned that one of the off-ice storylines of the season will be the contract issues regarding three of the Hawks' major stars. If the Hawks sign Jonathan Toews to a long-term deal Wednesday, it would not come as a surprise because, let's face it: You don't let the youngest captain in franchise history get to free agency -- restricted or not.

Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith will be restricted at the end of the season, as well, and the Hawks already have reached out to Keith (and probably Kane), indicating he's a priority along with the other two.

Although no negotiations have taken place, Keith's agent, Ross Gurney, is expected in town soon, which means those talks could heat up. Keith undoubtedly will get a considerable raise from the $1.5 million he is making now.

Too bad for Duncan he wasn't born a month earlier; if so, he'd be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season instead of next. He'll be 27 on July 16, 2010. That is the age when NHL players become unrestricted, but he would need to be 27 by July 1 to qualify in 2010.

This gives him a little leverage, I suppose. If he doesn't like any long-term deals the Hawks have to offer (and doesn't sign a restricted deal with another team), he could play next year under a "qualifying offer," then become unrestricted.

The bottom line: Expect a long-term deal signed by Keith sometime this season. It most definitely would benefit the Hawks to do so and, at the end of the day, ditto for Keith.

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