Locked & Loaded

By signing the two faces of the franchise to 8-year deals, the Blackhawks ensured two of the best players in the sport will carry them into their 30’s… And hopefully carry them to a couple more Stanley Cup championships.

Instead of focusing attention, anger & frustration on a United Center tenant that never finds a way to sign marquee players, let’s hangout & spend time on the one organization in Chicago that does everything right in their pursuit of championships. By agreeing to terms on 8-year contracts with Jonathan Toews & Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks took care of the most important pieces of business for this summer, and the next several summers after this one. The faces of the resurgent Hawks are locked into long term deals, and now Stan Bowman can wheel & deal around the salary cap knowing that his two best players won’t hit free agency or be talked about leaving for Winnipeg or Buffalo if contract extensions weren’t signed this summer.

The Hawks remain one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup next season in large part to the dynamic duo, and knowing that rumblings would have followed both stars throughout this upcoming season had they approached free agency, the Hawks had to take care of their own. And they did just that. While other teams are spending awful money on inferior players just to catch up to the Hawks, Stan Bowman inked long term deals to phenoms better than anyone in free agency. Oh, and did I mention that 88 & 19 haven’t approached their prime yet? I should probably throw that in there.

The fact that both Toews & Kane signed $84 million contracts is fitting. Both are equally responsible for the Hawks becoming one of the two premiere teams in the salary cap era NHL, and both players seem genuinely excited about continuing & hopefully finishing their careers together in a city that has already immortalized them….

“I could not be more grateful for the amazing moments and opportunities I’ve been given by the Chicago Blackhawks,” Toews said in a statement. “There’s no organization in sports that cares more about the overall experience of their fans and the success of their players. 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.”

Kane echoed similar feelings…

“It’s great to be able to continue my career in Chicago. Playing with the best organization in sports and the best fans in the game is a blessing,” he said in a statement. “Since I was drafted by the Blackhawks, the people of Chicago have really embraced me and treated me with nothing but respect. I look forward to many more years of success with the Blackhawks.”

In an era when NBA stars (not true superstars) are getting overpaid just because the market is determined by imbecile front office people, the Hawks managed to sign their two stars to deals that won’t handcuff the franchise going forward. Both contracts are front loaded & each deal includes $44 million in signing bonuses. But unlike so many NBA stiffs (and NHL bums for that matter) that get paid like stars, Toews & Kane are both deserving of their lucrative deals.

Why? Well, they both perform at a high level when the lights are the brightest. There’s a reason the Hawks are lethal late in playoff series, and nearly won their 3rd Cup since 2010. 88 & 19 don’t shrivel in money time like those two prima-donnas on the Penguins do every year.

Kane is 25, has 178 goals and 315 assists in 515 career regular-season games, as well as 37 goals and 54 assists in 93 playoff games. He won the 2008 Calder Memorial Trophy and the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy.

Toews is 26, has 195 goals and 245 assists in 484 career regular-season games, including 29 goals and 52 assists in 94 playoff games. He won the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy and 2013 Selke Trophy.

Toews and Kane are both playoff legends already and would remain if they never win another Cup together. But with the deals signed, the focus now turns on how to send the Kings home next May and win this core’s 3rd Cup. Let’s face it, with Kane & Toews counting $10+ million against the cap moving forward, the ’14-’15 season will be the last time this current team will play together.

Moves will have to made, and moves still need to be made in order to not get dominated down the middle like they did against the Kings. And no, Brad Richards is not the answer the 2nd line center tragedy that’s still hindering this team. The hope is Nick Leddy can become dependable enough to make Johnny Oduya expendable (he’s a free agent after next season, so why get an asset back for him now?), and the prayer is to find a sucker for Versteeg’s money. Hey, the Flames took on Brandon Bollig, so there’s proof anything’s possible in the NHL.

Let’s also not absolve Coach Q here either. The ultra successful (and extremely hard headed coach) needs to evolve and allow Teuvo Teravainen & Jeremy Morin a legit opportunity to flourish during the season so they can be factors in the playoffs.

But for now, let’s appreciate the fact that Rocky Wirtz is running a first class organization that wins, takes care of their own, has become a destination for players all over the league & has two of the best players in the world on his team. The Hawks fell short of their goal this past season, but knowing the best duo in the game is locked & loaded for 8 more years, there’s a great chance they’ll win the last game of the season a couple more times.

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