Keith skates with Oilers for first time

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EDMONTON — Duncan Keith skated with the Edmonton Oilers for the first time Friday after completing a mandatory two-week quarantine following his vaccination against COVID-19.

The 38-year-old defenseman, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 12, will continue to skate over the weekend and could make his Oilers preseason debut against the Calgary Flames on Monday.

“I feel good and I feel like I can still contribute and help this team win hockey games,” Keith said. “However the coaches see me fitting in, I’m willing to do whatever they want, whatever they need. It was a big change for me to come to a new organization, and I wanted to continue my career, I wanted to play in front of my son, for this organization. I want to play for these guys and this team and be a part of it.”

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Keith played his first 16 seasons with the Blackhawks, who selected him in the second round (No. 54) of the 2002 NHL Draft, before requesting a trade this offseason to be closer to his family in Penticton, British Columbia.

During his time in Chicago, Keith won the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013 and 2015), including the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015. He also won the Norris Trophy voted as the best defenseman in the NHL in 2010 and 2014, and has twice been named to the NHL First All-Star Team (also in 2010 and 2014).

He has two seasons remaining on a 13-year, $72 million contract ($5.53 million average annual value) he signed Dec. 3, 2009.

“I’ve been fortunate to play for a great organization for a long time in Chicago, but everything that’s happened since the trade with this team in Edmonton makes me feel right at home and makes me proud to be an Oiler and excited to be a part of this team,” Keith said. “I can’t say enough about the way I’ve been treated here. I feel like I’ve been spoiled. The organization and even the people in Edmonton, I’ve had lots of help. We’ve got a great group and I’m excited to be part of it.”

Keith is expected to play on the second defense pair with either Evan Bouchard or Cody Ceci this season for Edmonton, which finished second in the seven-team Scotia North Division last season (35-19-2) but was swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the Stanley Cup First Round, losing the final three games of the best-of-7 series in overtime.

“I want to help this team any way I can and that’s always been my goal, to be at my best and whatever comes my way, I try to embrace that situation and that role,” Keith said. “I think we have a lot of great defensemen here: Tyson Barrie, Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard — a young up-and-coming guy — the list goes on.  We’ll all try to push each other to get better and improve and I think that internal competition is good for our group to have to where we can push each other to better ourselves and ultimately our team.”

Photos courtesy: Edmonton Oilers

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