CONTRACTS: 2016-17 will be the first year of a six year contract, with a cap hit of $5 million per season.
2015-16 REGULAR SEASON STATS: Eight goals, 12 assists, 44 penalty minutes, +2 rating
2015-16 PLAYOFF STATS: Five games, one assist, four penalty minutes
CAREER REGULAR SEASON STATS: 234 games, 14 goals, 61 assists, 118 penalty minutes, +23 rating
CAREER PLAYOFF STATS: 19 games, one goal, one assist, 22 penalty minutes
After signing his first big money contract in the off-season (six years for $30 million), DeKeyser’s role with the team will be much more important in the 2016-17 season than ever before. With Niklas Kronwall declining because of age and injury concerns, the departure of Kyle Quincey, and no move made to bring in a new defenseman during the off-season, expect DeKeyser to fill a large portion of the void while playing on the first defensive pairing.
A good puck mover with solid decision making ability, DeKeyser is likely the best natural defender on the roster. It is expected that he will see more ice time than any other defenseman on the team (somewhere in the range of 23-26 minutes per game), and will regularly be matched up against the top lines of opposing teams.
He led all Detroit blue liners with eight goals last season, which also doubled his career high. He also led the team in average even strength ice time with 18:36 per game, and blocked shots with 107. While his defensive ability is already quite high, he is just starting to scratch the surface of his offensive ability. While he is not generally expected to be a big offensive contributor, expect his offensive numbers to start jumping as his ice time continues to increase.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Will DeKeyser have a smooth transition to an increased role with the team as he enters the prime of his career?
2016-17 PROJECTION: 80 games, 13 goals, 24 assists