Yesterday, the dynamic duo that has led the Chicago Blackhawks to two championships in the past five years got what had been coming to them for a long time: long, lucrative contract extensions. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both signed eight year extensions and will be making 10.5 million dollars annually through the 2022-23 NHL season. This amounts to 21 million dollars spent per season on just two players and 168 million over the life of both contracts. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have your stars locked up long term, especially in a day in age where a lot of star players test free agency, but not everything is looking bright in the future of the Chicago Blackhawks.
As General Manager Stan Bowman looks to assemble future championship teams centered around the duo of Toews and Kane, these contracts will become a major obstacle. It is important to note that these contracts will not count against the Hawks cap until next season, as there seemed to be some confusion regarding that on twitter yesterday. This season alone, with Kane and Toews making significantly less money than they will with their new contracts, the Hawks are over the salary cap. At this point, the Hawks have 65 million dollars committed to just 15 players for the 2015-16 season. What is going to make or break the future of the Blackhawks is Bowman’s ability to finagle the cap and to maintain the great depth the team has put on display over the past few years, even though he wont have much money to do so. Obviously this task will become much easier for Bowman, as the cap is expected to rise steadily over the next few seasons, but still, this is no easy task.
When Toews and Kane both burst onto the scene in 2007-08, the former first rounders made an immediate impact at the NHL level. The Blackhawks obviously knew they would eventually have to commit to both players long-term, so they saw this day coming, even from back in both players rookie campaigns.
Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz backed this idea yesterday by saying the following: “When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.”
Team President John McDonough added: “The signings symbolize an important milestone in franchise history. We are driven by the pursuit of consistent excellence.” This”pursuit of consistent excellence” that the Hawks strive for will hinge directly on how wisely Bowman spends the leftover money from the big contracts. If Bowman can get players that can make a serious impact with this money,the Blackhawks will be absolutely fine. It would appear that the Hawks will need to make one, if not multiple trades to free themselves of some large contracts that would prohibit them from making roster moves and to get them below the salary cap.
The Blackhawks have a ton of salary heavy contracts on their payroll, some of which will need to be moved. At this point in time the only veterans who would seem to be safe from being traded are Toews, Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. The fact that the Blackhawks have 11 players with no trade clauses on their roster will make it a little more tricky for Bowman and company to work with other teams on a potential trade. For example, Patrick Sharp is a player whose name has been bounced around in trade rumors for a couple of weeks now but with the no trade clause in his contract he can submit a list of teams that he refuses to be traded to, limiting the trading partners and making it difficult for Bowman to strike a deal. Of course any name thrown around is just speculation, but a trade or multiple trades to free up some cap room will most likely need to be made at some point.
As far as the individual contracts go, reactions have come in from all over social media and from blogs just like this one. I feel that these contracts were fair for both sides. Not only are both Toews and Kane exceptional talents, but they also carry a winning pedigree with them. Toews and Kane are the players who sell the jerseys, keep the TV ratings high, put fans in the seats and most importantly win on the ice for Chicago.
When I think of Jonathan Toews, I can best relate him to the song “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled, because truly all Toews does is win. At the very young age of 26, Toews has already captained two Stanley Cup Champions and won two Olympic gold medals. When players were in the same locker room as Toews for the first time in the Olympics, they were absolutely blown away at his ability to take control of a situation and express great leadership. Oh, and the guy isn’t all that bad at hockey. Toews is one of the most, if not the most well rounded hockey player both on and off the ice in the NHL today and to me you can easily justify his contract.
When I think of Patrick Kane my mind just jumps to clutch playoff goals and his confident, borderline cocky attitude. Kane is a fan favorite of not just Blackhawk fans, but NHL fans everywhere. He is easily one of the most exciting players to watch in the NHL and whether you like his confidence or not, you cant deny he is a superstar talent. Kane, like Toews has two Stanley Cups and his career is just getting underway. Kane in my mind is a top 15, if not top ten talent in the NHL and if you couple that with his winning pedigree he is undoubtedly worth 10.5 million dollars per season.
When it was announced that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews had signed long-term contract extensions it came as a surprise to absolutely no one, and neither did the money both received. The Kane and Toews extensions may put the Blackhawks in some cap related trouble, but if the right moves are made today will truly be a day that Blackhawks fans can look back on as a day that was great for the franchise both now and in the future.
Any thoughts on the contract extensions or how the Hawks can clear cap? Feel free to comment below!