As the contract extensions for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were announced to the media yesterday, let’s take a look at the ramifications these two identical deals will have on the construction of the team.
Both players will receive a total of $84 million over an eight-year span, meaning each will be with the Blackhawks through the 2022-23 season. At the conclusion of the contracts, Kane will be 34 years old while Toews will be turning 35 at the end of April, 2023 at which point both will assuredly be able to grow much better playoff beards than the ones they’ve recently been sporting.
Part of the reason these deals came together so quickly is a shared desire by both players to stay in Chicago – and why shouldn’t they? Both players have grown into their stardom from a young age with the Blackhawks, as amazingly both have played seven seasons beginning in 2007-08 and have won two Stanley Cup championships.
When discussing the contract extensions and the difficulty there is to find, and hold onto, star players, general manager Stan Bowman had this to say about Kane and Toews:
They want to be here. It’s not even a discussion point. I’m just thrilled we have two of them. Most teams would die to have one of these players on their team. We have two of them here. We’re very fortunate.
As far as the numbers go, each player will receive a total signing bonus of $44 million and salaries totaling $40 million over the course of their contracts. During each of the first three years, Kane and Toews will receive $13.8 million apiece, which will tie them for the second highest salary in the NHL at the start of the 2015-16 season. Beginning in 2016-17, Kane and Toews are set to be the highest paid players in the NHL.
If there was any notion that Kane and Toews signed for anywhere near a hometown discount, erase that thought. The extensions the two superstars signed will make them the highest paid players in the NHL on an average annual basis – and they deserve it.
However, starting in 2015-16, the Blackhawks will feel the cap crunch grow much tighter than in years past. Instead of counting for $6.3 million against the cap as they do for the upcoming season, Kane and Toews will soon account for $10.5 million each. The next highest cap hits on the books will be Patrick Sharp at $5.9 million, Marian Hossa at $5.275 million and Bryan Bickell at $4 million.This means that more pressure than ever before will be put on the Blackhawks’ player development. According to general manager Stan Bowman:
The rest of the stuff will work itself out. We put a lot of work into finding young players and surrounding these guys with a great supporting cast.
True to Bowman’s point, the Blackhawks have already done a fantastic job of finding young, cost-controlled players to fill out an effective supporting cast, most notably developing forwards Andrew Shaw (22 years old) and Brandon Saad (21 years old). Saad finished the past season with 19 goals, 28 assists and a +20 rating while Shaw finished with 20 goals, 19 assists and a +12 rating.
In time the Blackhawks hope that Jeremy Morin, who spent the season on a never-ending ride back and forth from Rockford to Chicago, as well as the much talked about Teuvo Teravainen can take a more expanded role on offense. In his limited ice time last year, Morin made the most of his opportunities and led the Blackhawks with a 62.6 Corsi percentage and a 23.7 Corsi Relative. Both Morin and Teravainen should continue to see an expanded role during the first few years of the Kane and Toews extensions.
In addition to the young forwards, the Blackhawks will receive defensive reinforcements from recent draft picks, including 2011 second-round pick Adam Clendenig and 2010 second-round pick Adam Johns. Johns recently signed with the Hawks in April after spending four years at Notre Dame and at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds he may be ready for the NHL this season. Clendenig may also be ready to come up this year after leading Rockford in points last season. The Blackhawks have drafted well recently and the team should be able to continue to surround Kane, Toews and the other Hawks playmakers with young, cost-controlled talent.
At the end of the day, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews chose to negotiate their extensions a year before free agency for one reason: they love being Chicago Blackhawks. If either or both had instead decided to go out and test the market in free agency a year from now, no one would have held it against them. That is their right as players and they have clearly earned it. Instead, the two ensured the undying love of Chicagoans for another eight years, and likely more beyond that with unprecedented twin contract extensions.
Seriously, how many times has this been done in sports, where two superstars jointly decide they want to stay with the team that brought them into the league and signed identical contract extensions? Every Blackhawks fan should count him-or herself lucky, not only for the two recent championships, but also for the blessing of being able to watch these two superstars mature and amaze us with each game they take the ice.
All numbers courtesy of CapGeek.com