With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane now locked in with the Blackhawks through the 2022-23 season, the future of the franchise appears bright — with a hint of storm clouds on the distant horizon.
Two of the NHL’s top players aren’t going anywhere after Toews and Kane agreed to terms on identical eight-year, $84 million contract extensions Wednesday, likely ensuring the Hawks will be Stanley Cup contenders for the next decade or so.
Hawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and the rest of the Hawks’ hierarchy recognized and rewarded their young forwards’ rare talent with contracts that will carry salary-cap hits of $10.5 million per year apiece — the highest in league history — when they kick in beginning with the 2015-16 season.
That combined $168 million dedicated long term to two players carries cap implications that Bowman will have to work his way through when he assembles future rosters.
But it was a commitment the organization was more than willing to make considering the impact Toews and Kane have had since they entered the NHL together during the 2007-08 season.
“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,” Wirtz said in a statement. “There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.”
Added McDonough: “The signings symbolize an important milestone in franchise history. We are driven by the pursuit of consistent excellence.”
The level of that excellence will hinge on how Bowman, who called Toews and Kane “cornerstones of this franchise,” finagles the cap beginning next season and certainly in future ones. The onus is now on the GM to make the finances work.
The Hawks currently sit around $2.2 million above the $69 million cap for ’14-15 and likely will have to make a move to get below it. It could be a relatively minor one, but now with more than $65 million already committed to 15 players for the ’15-16 season, Bowman might start thinking bigger picture sooner rather than later.
His task will ease some as the cap is expected to rise possibly to as much as $75 million, thanks in part to the infusion of money from a Canadian TV deal. While that will help, the numbers don’t add up for the Hawks to keep their core of Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Corey Crawford and Brent Seabrook fully intact beyond next season — especially with up-and-comer Brandon Saad in line to receive a substantial raise.
For now, though, the Hawks will bask in the glow of locking up Toews and Kane, who will be 35 and 34, respectively, when their new contracts expire in 2023. They are expected to continue adding to resumes that already include Hockey Hall of Fame-caliber play and instrumental roles in the Hawks capturing Cups in 2010 and ’13.
“I could not be more grateful for the amazing moments and opportunities I’ve been given,” Toews said. “There’s no organization in sports that cares more about the overall experience of their fans and the success of their players. (This extension) is an incredible honor.”
Said Kane, who along with Toews will make $6.5 million next season: “It’s great to be able to continue my career in Chicago. Playing with the best organization in sports and the best fans in the game is a blessing.”
Twitter @ChrisKucCopyright © 2015, RedEye