Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been the cornerstones of the Blackhawks' resurgence back to NHL greatness.
They’re at the forefront of this team, the top engines that make it go. And the Blackhawks’ general manager said re-signing them is right at the top of his offseason list.
General manager Stan Bowman said re-signing Toews and Kane is “the highest priority for us” as the Blackhawks enter the offseason. The two are currently under contracts that run through the 2014-15 season but the Blackhawks are allowed to re-sign them any time after July 1 of this summer. Don’t be surprised if the Blackhawks do that as soon as possible after that date.
“We made it clear. We’ve never wavered from that. There’s no doubting the importance of those two players. The direction this franchise has taken has really been in tandem with those two players,” Bowman said on Tuesday, when the Blackhawks had their closing interviews. “When Patrick and Jonathan came on to the scene, it really breathed life into our franchise and into our team. They've played a huge part in this.”
Bowman wouldn't talk about negotiations, other than to say the team has a great relationship with Pat Brisson, who represents both Toews and Kane.
“He’s the best agent in the game – he gets deals done,” Bowman said. “We’re excited to work with him and get that worked out.”
Toews and Kane said they haven’t thought that much about the negotiations or upcoming contracts to this point. They were more focused on getting to another Stanley Cup Final, and fell just short of that in their Game 7 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. As for their love of Chicago and being a part of a winning organization, they were more talkative.
“I know we both love it here in Chicago, love playing here and having the chance to win every year,” Kane said. “We’ll see what happens.”
“Who could ever think of a better situation to be in?” he said. “I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of a group of unbelievable guys. The majority of our team has been together since I’ve been here and just to see the growth of this franchise in the city of Chicago, the amazing fans we have here, there’s no doubt in my mind there’s no better way to have it as a hockey player. I think that said, like I said a moment earlier, things will take care of themselves when it comes to that."
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Obviously, both are due a good raise. Kane and Toews will each earn $6.5 million in 2014-15, the final year of their current contracts. Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise are among the league’s highest-paid forwards; they’ll make $12 million and $11 million, respectively, in 2014-15. Alex Ovechkin will make $10 million. The salary cap for the 2014-15 season is expected to be approximately $71 million, a sizeable increase from the $64.3 million of 2013-14. The cap will certainly go up again in 2015-16, when Toews' and Kane’s new contracts would kick in.
So the question is, will the Blackhawks get the deals made with those two without disrupting their core too much?
“Well, that’s the goal is to keep this thing going,” Bowman said. “The reason we’ve been able to do that is two-fold. One, we’ve been able to keep the main players together and, number two, we’ve been able to bring in young players and they’ve been able to support the role. That’s why we put so much focus on drafting/developing players and we plan to continue that. We have a good number of young players in Rockford on the doorstep. Then we have some young kids in college and in Europe that are maybe not on the doorstep, but a few years away. They’re not all going to make it but when you have a pool of 10-12 guys and need a couple of them to come through over the next few years, we’re confident we can make that happen.”
Kane said it’s ultimately about the big picture and maintaining success, not as much about the dollars.
“There have been some questions on it throughout the season that we could re-sign when the summer is up but I think it was never really in our minds because I don’t think it’s something Jon or I play for, is our contract or the money. We’re playing to try and win and because we love the game,” he said. “We’ll talk more about it but we’ll see where it all goes when that happens, I guess. I don’t really know what to expect. I’ll talk to Stan today and I’m sure that will probably come up but we’ll see what all happens, I guess.”
Bowman’s made it clear what he wants to happen; he’s sure he can make it happen. Sure, either or both could go elsewhere and potentially make an even more massive amount of money than they will here. But will they have the same core around them, the same opportunity to get to Western Conference and Stanley Cup finals on a regular basis? The two love the game and love the success they’ve found in Chicago, and sound like they want to continue that.
“The one thing I know about both of them is they want to win,” Bowman said. “Bottom line, you take all the other things, set them aside, they’re winners and they want to win.”