Blackhawks: How long can the average defensemen play in the NHL?
By Jimmy Lynch
Tomorrow one Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman is set to turn 37 years old, which will make him 18 years older than Kirby Dach. If the fact that Kirby Dach was just one the same year Duncan Keith was drafted doesn’t scare you I do not know what will.
Duncan Keith is the Chicago Blackhawks ageless wonder, and he continues to play at a high-level despite aging year in and year out. At some point, father time is going to catch up with Keith, and maybe we can help establish when that might be.
I spent some time looking at other defensemen who continued to play at a high level despite their age, and honestly, the list is not as long as I would like. Obviously everyone knows about Chris Chelios playing till he turned 47 and Scott Stevens playing to age 39 and playing at a high-level throughout it all.
We all understand that Duncan Keith is going to end his career when he is ready. I do not see him calling it quits till the end of his 30s, but if he decided to stop playing next season, that would be his decision. However, things like his contract are going to play into the decision.
Keith is signed till the end of the 2022-23 season. At that time he will turn 40 years old. At that point, Keith will be ending the 13-year contract that made up his entire prime of his career, and he can take on a cheaper contract should he want to come back and play again.
We are seeing Zdeno Chara continue to play in Boston even though he is in his 40s there is no reason Keith can not do that same, even if he does not have the same size. I know the title said how long can the average defensemen play in the NHL, but Keith is no average defenseman.
Most defensemen consider calling it a career after they turn 35 and before they turn 40. Considering they have done everything they wanted to accomplish, like winning a Stanley Cup, you will see a lot of good defensemen leaving the skates behind around that time. However, Keith is not like those other defensemen. He is similar to Chelios in the fact that he is one of the greats. In my mind, I think Keith still can continue to grow his legacy and show just how dominant he is.
I’ll give you the percentage of how likely Keith is going to continue to play in the NHL moving down the line. I would say it is a 100 percent chance he plays to the age of 40, a 70 percent chance he plays to the age of 43, and a 10 percent chance he makes it to 45.
While I would hate to see Keith retire anytime in the next ten years, I am excited about the potential hall of fame ceremonies and number retirements the Blackhawks will get to enjoy when their number one defense does decide to leave the game of hockey behind.