The Chicago Blackhawks fell just short of attempting to win a second straight Stanley Cup and their third in the last five years after losing to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, but the longer offseason will mean more time to lock up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to extensions.
Toews and Kane are both scheduled to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2014-2015 season and the team can begin negotiations on a long-term contract that will keep them in Chicago for the foreseeable future on July 1.
The length of the contracts for the two former top-three picks and faces of the franchise could lock the duo up for the next decade if general manager Stan Bowman can make the dollars work under the salary cap, but signing the pair to extensions is his top priority he announced Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s the highest priority for us looking at next year,” Bowman said. “There’s no doubt that’s what we’re going to do. I’ve made it clear. We’ve never wavered from that. There’s no doubting the importance of those two players.
“At the beginning, I sort of talked about the franchise in general and the direction we’ve taken, and it’s really been tandem with those two players. When Patrick and Jonathan came onto the scene, it really sort of breathed life into the franchise and into our team. I think there was excitement. Certainly the success of the team has helped reach the level that it’s at now. They’ve played a huge part in this.”
Neither Toews or Kane has given much thought to their contract status to this point as their focus was on the playoffs, but with the season ending prematurely, the focus will turn to negotiations and the duo is represented by the same agent, Pat Brisson, who negotiated identical five-year deals in 2009, one year before the team won the Stanley Cup.
With both players wanting to remain in Chicago and Bowman and the Blackhawks wanting to keep them both here for the duration of their careers, an extension for the pair should be a matter of when and not if this offseason and perhaps announced on the same day in a joint press conference.
I would venture a guess that both players receive a max deal in length under the new collective bargaining agreement of eight years and a yearly salary in the $9-12 million range which would make them among the top five highest-paid players in the NHL.