Any fan of the Chicago Blackhawks can tell you how ugly the early 2000′s were for the franchise. The team rarely ever contended, home games weren’t even locally broadcast on TV and eventually ESPN even named the club the worst franchise in sports.
Fast forward to this past summer. The Blackhawks, coming off a year in which they won the President’s Trophy for best overall regular season record, won their second Stanley Cup in four seasons, defeating the Boston Bruins in six games. A team that was once looked at with indifference by Chicagoans is now king of the city.
Two of the biggest reasons for this huge turnaround are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. After selecting Toews in the 2006 NHL Draft, and then Kane the following year, the team began to improve their overall performance. By the 2008-09 season, the two had reached star status and the Blackhawks made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Its safe to say these two are definitely corner stone players for Chicago. The last thing any Blackhawks fan would want to see is one or both of these forwards part ways with the team.
Both Kane and Toews have two more years left on their contracts, however rest assured that upper management refuses to see any scenario in the team’s future without these superstars.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, GM Stan Bowman says he doesn’t care what the team’s cap situation is when it comes time to negotiate, he intends to keep Toews and Kane in Blackhawks sweaters forever.
“Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be here forever,” Bowman said. “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.”
The money he was referring to regards the new contracts given out this offseason to Corey Crawford and Niklas Hjalmarsson. These two are among the seven players Chicago already has signed for the 2015-16 season. Combined, the contracts add up to a $36.5 million cap hit for that season. So, understandably, people were wondering if that would affect Bowman’s ability to resign both Toews and Kane.
“I’m not trying to play prognosticator on the cap,” Bowman continued. “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.”
Neither Toews nor Kane will come cheap, but it at least sounds like Bowman is aware of that. And any concept of a “hometown discount” should probably be avoided, as Chicago will hardly be the only team bidding on these two if unrestricted free agency comes into play.
Its still a couple years away, but Chicago fans have to feel pretty good knowing that, for now, it doesn’t sound like the front office has any intent on letting two key members of the team’s resurrection play anywhere else.