Jonathan Toews let out a slight chuckle when he was asked recently if there was any scenario he could envision that ended with him not signing a contract extension with the Blackhawks.
"Very doubtful," the captain said with a grin.
The question still remains when and not if Toews and Patrick Kane will finalize deals that will make them Hawks for the long term.
There is no rush as the young standout forwards who have teamed up to help lead the Hawks to two Stanley Cups in the last five years won't be unrestricted free agents until after the 2014-15 season. The only one who has put any kind of time frame on the signings that could surpass $10 million per season for each player — among the highest salaries in the NHL — has been Hawks general manager Stan Bowman. He called the deals his "highest priority" during the offseason and on more than one occasion said he wanted them done before July 1.
But that date has come and gone and a source said Thursday that the extensions are not expected to be completed until sometime after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Bowman said Tuesday that negotiations between the Hawks and Pat Brisson, the agent for both players, on the contracts that would kick in for the '15-16 season were "ongoing."
"Nothing has changed from my original expectation that they're both going to be signed," Bowman added. "We're looking forward to that."
Both Bowman and Toews recently said they would prefer that the players signed together, much like they did when they agreed to identical five-year, $31.5 million deals midway through the '09-10 season.
Bowman has indicated that there is no possibility that the Hawks would not be able to get deals done with both players despite the price tags, and Toews agreed, saying, "it's just about working something out."
That is easier said than done, even when the sides share common ground on reaching an agreement. The money and term of the contracts are of utmost importance, but other factors can delay the process.
The last time the Hawks signed Toews, Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith to long-term contracts, they were put on hold for nearly a month while Bowman dealt with salary-cap issues, namely the "tagging rule" in the collective bargaining agreement that effectively states that a team can not commit money to the following season that would exceed the current season's cap ($69 million).
There are variables in the rule that could make the signings possible, but it also may mean the Hawks have to make a roster move to create cap space before officially announcing anything.
While it would make sense to announce the signing of two franchise cornerstones at the Hawks' annual fan convention later this month, another source said the team won't wait once the final hurdles are cleared.