Blackhawks aren’t sweating contract extensions for Toews, Kane
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter June 3, 2014 8:57PM
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Updated: July 5, 2014 6:34AM
There are numbers to be worked out, a salary cap to wriggle under, maybe even a hometown discount to be discussed. But as far as Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is concerned, there will be no suspense. No drama. No hardball to be played.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will get contract extensions this summer. And that’ll be that.
‘‘It’s the highest priority for us,’’ Bowman said Tuesday as the Hawks cleaned out their lockers and scattered for the summer after their Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference final. ‘‘There’s no doubt that’s what we’re going to do.’’
Bowman even went so far as to call Pat Brisson, the very fortunate representative for both Toews and Kane, ‘‘the best agent in the game.’’ So while Toews and Kane likely can command north of $10 million each per season (the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin and the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin are the NHL’s highest-paid players at $9.5 million a year), Bowman had no doubt he’d be able to keep his two biggest stars. Both will enter the final year of their matching five-year, $31.5 million contracts next fall and are eligible to negotiate extensions starting July 1. It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see the deals announced at the Blackhawks Convention on July 18-20.
Toews and Kane weren’t exactly being coy about their futures, either.
‘‘Who could ever think of a better situation to be in?’’ Toews said. ‘‘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.’’
Kane was less ebullient, saying he hadn’t had any discussions about his future with Bowman, Brisson, Toews or his parents. But he added, ‘‘I know we both love it here in Chicago — we love playing here and having the chance to win every year.’’
That’s Bowman’s trump card — the chance to win every year. No matter what other teams might be able to offer Toews or Kane, few, if any, would be able to offer the chance to compete for a Stanley Cup every season.
‘‘The one thing I know about both of them is they want to win,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘You take all the other things and set them aside, they’re winners and they want to win. And we’re committed to winning.’’
Kane would never say so, but there are some within the organization who believe he has been frustrated with the Hawks’ lack of a true second-line center. Kane played with six different centers this season, and as coach Joel Quenneville admitted, that’s been pretty much the case every year with Kane. But he found instant success against the Kings on a line with Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad. And with Teuvo Teravainen poised to join the Hawks full time next fall, and with Boston College standout Kevin Hayes working on a contract, the team’s void up the middle behind Toews finally could be filled.
Of course, there are other matters for the Hawks to address this summer. Bowman didn’t expect any ‘‘wholesale changes,’’ but there will be some inevitable departures. Michal Handzus said he doesn’t plan to retire, but it’s unlikely he fits in the Hawks’ plans. Peter Regin very much wants to return, but he seems a long shot. Sheldon Brookbank likely will leave as an unrestricted free agent.
Two players who should be back are Ben Smith and Antti Raanta, both restricted free agents. Bowman spoke highly of both and expects to work on new deals for them soon. And both, like Toews and Kane, said there’s no better place to be than Chicago.
“Well, of course,” Raanta said. “Who wouldn’t want to be back here? It’s the greatest organization you can ask [for]. We’ll see what my agent can do. That’s their job.”