Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews Contracts Keep Blackhawks in Line for Dynasty

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Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews Contracts Keep Blackhawks in Line for Dynasty
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Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane became the first $10 million men of the NHL's salary-cap era Wednesday, signing eight-year, $84 million extensions with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beginning in 2015-16, Toews and Kane will have cap hits of $10.5 million apiece. Alex Ovechkin ($9.538 million) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) are the only other players in the league with a cap hit north of $9 million.

Before the hard-hitting analysis and forward-looking breakdown of Kane, Toews and the future of the Blackhawks, let's help get over the sticker shock of an NHL player making $10.5 million per season.

Kane and Toews are hardly the first players to earn this much money, and it's long overdue that NHL superstars once again make superstar money. In a league that currently considers Dave Bolland a $5.5 million player, there's nothing wrong with two of the sport's best getting nearly double that while still in their primes.

Before the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Keith Tkachuk, Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg had annual salaries of at least $10 million in 2003-04. It was much more common for salaries to reach double figures before the league instituted a hard salary cap, as evidenced by these one-year salaries from almost 20 years ago:

Fedorov's salary that season with the Red Wings was inflated because of an offer sheet from the Hurricanes signed by the Russian superstar, but otherwise great players making $10 million was commonplace.

Toews and Kane have been the cornerstones of two Stanley Cups in Chicago and respectively rank 19th and eighth in points since 2009-10. The one criticism about the Toews deal is that he is being paid elite money and does not have elite numbers, but his two-way game is among the best in the NHL, as evidenced by his Selke Trophy in 2013 and third-place finish in 2014.

With league revenues at an all-time high today and a salary cap tied to those revenues, Toews and Kane received very fair deals.

According to James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail, the salary cap for 2015-16 could be $76 million, as the league and NHLPA reached a compromise for this year's $69 million salary cap after not including the new Canadian television contracts that begin next season.

If that $76 million number is correct, Toews and Kane will comprise 27.6 percent of the Blackhawks' salary cap in 2015-16not a small number but one that is about on par with some of the league's other top duos.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks had a combined cap hit of $16.825 million last season, the first year of each of their deals. With a $64.3 million cap in 2013-14, Perry and Getzlaf accounted for 26.2 percent of the team's cap room.

Sidney Crosby and Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins will have a combined cap hit of $18.2 million next season, which is 26.3 percent of the team's cap room.

Toews and Kane cost a little bit more than their counterparts, something that probably has a lot to do with winning two Stanley Cups in four years.

But with two $10.5 million cap hits beginning in 2015-16, will the Blackhawks be able to contend for more championships?

The short answer is yes, but it will require some shuffling and cap management in the short term.

The Blackhawks are currently about $2 million over the cap for this upcoming season and have $65 million in contracts for 15 players for the 2015-16 season. They will have several key RFAs in Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger and UFAs in Johnny Oduya and Brad Richards, although the latter is likely not in the team's plans beyond 2014-15.

Someone has to go, and the most likely player to have a new address will be Patrick Sharp.

The 32-year-old has three straight 30-goal seasons (lockout year not included) but also three years and a $5.9 million cap hit remaining on his contract. He has value and a cap hit that's only $400,000 greater than that of Bolland with the Panthers, so there will be a team willing to take him.

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The key to any team contending for championships with such top-heavy payrolls is harvesting cheap, young talent that can produce on inexpensive contracts. There's potential with that in the coming years, as budding prospects Teuvo Teravainen and Jeremy Morin will be on entry-level deals through 2016-17 and 2015-16, respectively.

The Blackhawks have continually proven that they can draft and develop, so in a way they are gambling on themselves to have continued success in finding and growing talent from within their organization.

It's OK to be top-heavy in salary caps, as this chart from Adam Gretz of About.com shows, as long as the team has the supporting cast to go along with it.

These contracts for Kane and Toews are fair and won't prevent the Blackhawks from winning another championship or two in the next eight or nine years. It's very likely the start of $10 million players becoming the norm in the NHL, something Steven Stamkos is very likely smiling ear-to-ear about right now.

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com and Extra Skater. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.

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