The Blackhawks have announced that Duncan Keith will miss 4-6 weeks following surgery to repair “a right knee meniscal tear.” It is unknown when or how the injury occurred, as Keith didn’t miss a shift in the Hawks’ last game against Columbus. Keith is the one player this team could not afford to lose for any lengthy time.
Defense has been the Blackhawks’ biggest problem early on this season as expected. Their blue line was already thin with Keith in the lineup. Now with him gone, they’ll have to play van Riemskyk, Svedberg, AND Rundblad. They may choose to recall Ville Pokka in addition.
It had been reported that Stan Bowman was on the hunt for a defenseman to acquire via a trade over the last couple weeks. With news of Keith’s injury, one would have to believe that Bowman is now pursuing a trade much more aggressively.
With Keith likely headed to LTIR (Long Term Injured Reserve), that will open up over $5.5 million in cap space for the Hawks while he’s out. That’s more than enough space for them to add a contract to the roster in the form of a defenseman. The problem is that when Keith comes back, his contract will go back to counting towards the Hawks’ cap hit, which would make trading for someone now a future problem. They aren’t going to trade for a player who has any kind of hefty salary, as that would force them to dump salary yet again in another six weeks.
So, given that information and the situation the Hawks are now faced with, I’d be surprised if they pulled off any significant trade. I think it’s much more likely for them to go ahead and sign a free agent veteran defenseman, like Lubomir Visnovsky who was cut by the Hawks before the season began. He didn’t look bad at all in camp and would be a cheap addition.
All in all here, this is horrible news for the Hawks. Keith is the one guy they couldn’t lose, and now he’s gone for 4-6 weeks. Playing in the Western Conference was already going to be tough enough, and now the Hawks will have to do it without their top d-man.