As deftly as they handle a two-on-one break together on the ice, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane balanced the desire to be rewarded for their efforts with helping the Blackhawks to remain competitive in the future.
The result was the Hawks’ brightest stars recently agreeing to sign identical eight-year, $84 million contract extensions that each carry salary-cap hits of $10.5 million per season beginning with the 2015-16 campaign.
They could have demanded — and likely received — more. According to agent Pat Brisson, the dynamic duo each could have asked for the maximum payout the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement allows of $13.8 million per season, or 20 percent of the current $69 million cap.
Meeting the media for the first time since agreeing July 9 to the contracts that currently will carry the highest cap hits in NHL history, Toews and Kane explained Wednesday why they settled for less. It went beyond Toews’ simple explanation of, “it would be kind of weird to be on a team without ‘Kaner,’ and more toward not saddling general manager Stan Bowman with cap hits that would trigger wholesale roster changes down the line.
“There is a balance there,” Toews said. “As far as looking at the team that we have, the truths that do exist as far as trying to keep a solid, successful team together with a lot of key parts that go beyond just the two of us. We’re very conscious of what goes into that as far as keeping this team together.
“On the other hand, you like to see that the market keeps going up and up as the NHL keeps growing as a sport and you want to look after your family and your own interests as well. But I think we did pretty well at balancing that and we’re very happy with the way things worked out.”
Said Kane: “The core is in a good place right now and with the cap rising, we feel pretty comfortable about where our deals are to have good players around us.”
There was never any doubt that Toews and Kane would remain with the Hawks when their current contracts that carry cap hits of $6.3 million apiece expire at the end of next season.
“It was not even really a thought to think about continuing your career anywhere else,” Kane said. “We’re both happy that we’re locked up here for a while.”
So is Bowman, who along with Toews and Kane, was joined by Hawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President John McDonough during the news conference at the United Center.
“I’ve always said that the most important thing for us is you can’t get star players,” Bowman said. “Once you do get ones, it’s so hard to win. You have star players here who have shown the ability to win and they want to be here. Most teams would die to have one of these players on their team and we have two of them.”
Bowman and the Hawks will build the Hawks around Toews and Kane for the next decade or so, something the GM believes won’t be an issue despite a shortage of cap space, including currently sitting $2.2 million above the cap.
“It’s obviously a puzzle to put together, but we’re going to make it work,” Bowman said. “We’ve been able to do that in the past and I have a lot of faith in the ability to keep that going.”
The deals Brisson structured, which each include signing bonuses of at least $4 million each year of the contracts until they expire after the 2022-23 season, will give Bowman a fighting chance on maintaining the Hawks as a contender for the Stanley Cup for the immediate and long-term future.
“(Toews and Kane) could have commanded $13.8 million each but they understand hockey is a team sport and the reason why they’re all successful as players is based on the environment they’re in,” Brisson said. “I give them a lot of credit understanding that.”
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