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Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane sign 8-year contract extensions

BOSTON MA - JUNE 24:  Jonathan Toews #19 Patrick Kane #88 Chicago Blackhawks celebrates goal by Toews tie game

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24: Jonathan Toews #19 and Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates a goal by Toews to tie the game at one during the second period of Game Six of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

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HIGHEST CAP HITS (2015-16)

Patrick Kane, HAWKS $10.5M

Jonathan Toews, HAWKS $10.5M

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals $9.538M

Evgeni Malkin, Penguins $9.5M

Sidney Crosby, Penguins $8.7M

Corey Perry, Ducks $8.625M

Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers $8.5M

Claude Giroux, Flyers $8.275M

Eric Staal, Hurricanes $8.25M

Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks $8.25M

Updated: July 9, 2014 10:25PM



Eight more years for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

One last hurrah for the Blackhawks’ vaunted core?

The Hawks on Wednesday locked up their two biggest stars by signing Toews and Kane to matching eight-year extensions worth a combined $168 million that will keep them in Chicago through the end of the 2022-23 season, when Toews will be 35 and Kane 34. The deals were as inevitable as they were warranted, the biggest — albeit most expensive — no-brainers in team history. But each carries an NHL-record cap hit of $10.5 million per season, which means not everyone whose name is on the Stanley Cup twice will be around to see those extensions kick in come 2015-16.

Of course, there never was any
suspense to this one. Not really, anyway. Sure, the negotiations dragged a bit past general manager Stan Bowman’s stated target of July 1, but Toews and Kane never were going anywhere. As Bowman put it, they’ll be Hawks ‘‘forever.’’ Eventually, that means they’ll be immortalized in statue form at the United Center. For now, it means they will stay in Chicago through at least the primes of their careers.

Neither is a 50-goal scorer such as Alex Ovechkin, whose cap hit of $9.538 million was blown away by the deals. Toews never has been a point-a-game player. Kane’s not even on the Hawks’ top line. But they’re 26 and 25 years old, respectively, each with two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy to his credit. And, perhaps most significant, they’re the duo who woke a dormant, moribund franchise, sparked a 277-game (and counting) sellout streak at the long-abandoned United Center and led the Hawks out of obscurity and down Michigan Avenue in 2010 and into Grant Park in 2013.

‘‘Jonathan and Patrick have
become cornerstones of this franchise during their time in Chicago,’’ Bowman said in a statement. ‘‘We are excited to ensure they will continue to lead our organization for years to come.’’

The signings indeed ensure the Hawks will remain competitive and relevant into the next decade. But they also ensure the core that has won two championships — and came agonizingly close to another this past season — won’t be able to stay together forever.

The salary cap, now at $69 million, will rise significantly — likely to the mid-$70 millions — in 2015-16 when the extensions kick in, thanks to the new Canadian TV deal the league signed this past season. But the $21 million per season earmarked for Toews and Kane puts the Hawks at more than $65 million already, with only 15 players signed.

Already about $2 million above the cap for the 2014-15 season, the Hawks still have to shed salary this summer. By next summer, when Brandon Saad also will be due a hefty raise, they’ll have to part ways with at least one of their other stars, with only Toews, Kane and Duncan Keith (also signed through 2022-23) untouchable. That’s just the way of the modern NHL world.

So the Hawks at least will have one more season — with Toews and Kane making a modest $6.3 million each this coming year — to make a run at a third Cup with the original core largely intact.

Toews and Kane repeatedly have said they wanted to stay in Chicago, and they expressed their appreciation in statements released by
the team.

‘‘There’s no organization in sports that cares more about the overall experience of their fans and the success of their players,’’ Toews said. ‘‘To have the chance to continue with this amazing group of teammates and people throughout the organization is an incredible honor. There’s nothing we want more as players than to continue to win Stanley Cups for the best hockey fans on the planet.’’

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



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