Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the faces of the Blackhawks franchise and the cornerstones of two Stanley Cup championship teams, have two years left on their contracts. But Hawks general manager Stan Bowman — two days after sidestepping the question multiple times in the wake of contract extensions for Corey Crawford and Niklas Hjalmarsson — says money will not be an issue, and that Toews and Kane aren’t going anywhere. Ever.
“Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be here forever,” Bowman told the team website. “I can’t predict what the salary cap will be in the near future, but I can tell you that Jonathan and Patrick will be on this team. Those two players put the Blackhawks back on the map, they’re up in a couple years, and whatever the numbers are, we’ll figure out the details. The notion that the money we’re spending now will affect our ability to keep Jonathan and Kane … it’s a non-issue. They will be here no matter what.”
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. | Sun-Times file
Of course, that’s hardly a surprise. At just 25 and 24, respectively, Toews and Kane already have entrenched themselves as Chicago icons, helping to raise a moribund Hawks franchise from the near-dead, each winning a Conn Smythe Trophy in leading the team to a championship. Making the numbers work could be tricky, though, depending on how much the salary cap rises in the next two years from its current, post-lockout number of $64.3 million. Currently, the Hawks have only seven players — Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Crawford and Hjalmarsson — signed for 2015-16 at this point, with a cap hit already at about $36.6 million.
The Hawks can expect to pay as much or more than the Pittsburgh Penguins have for their dynamic duo. Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million a year) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) are signed through 2025 and 2022, respectively, for a combined $18.2 million annual cap hit.
“I’m not trying to play prognosticator on the cap,” Bowman said Wednesday. “Traditionally, it’s risen. If the game continues to go the way it is, it should continue to increase. Now, the rate of increase is something we can debate all day. The way I look at [the Crawford and Hjalmarsson] signings, though, is when you find good players, you’ve got to keep them. These are important players. It’s hard to find guys like him. If you have one and you know what he’s all about and he wants to be part of your group and he’s an effective player — why wouldn’t you keep him? I think you can sort the rest out later.”