Chicago Blackhaws: If Toews and Kane Stay, Is Keith Gone?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer INovember 16, 2009

A number of media sources, led by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, are reporting that the Chicago Blackhawks are close to contract extensions with their two young superstar forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

LeBrun speculated over the weekend that an announcement of the extensions for the two could come during the team's two-week Circus Trip, which begins this week.

The downside of the speculation that Toews and Kane will get their substantial pay days soon comes with the reality that, if both of the kids get fair market value for 21-year old stars, Duncan Keith might be on borrowed time.

Keith, who has been absolutely spectacular next to Brent Seabrook for the past couple seasons, is one of the fastest skating defensemen in the league and has played at an All Star level for three years. He is off to a great start in 2009-10, scoring 15 points already and continuing his leadership on the blue line for the best defense in the league.

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, though, Keith is a restricted free agent this coming summer. He will turn 27 in July, and stands to get a substantial raise, just like Toews and Kane. That means other teams can, and probably will, submit offer sheets to Keith that would force the Hawks to either match their terms or lose Keith with only draft picks coming back as compensation.

The reality of the Hawks' salary cap situation is starting to become a reality.

There have been rumors that the Hawks are active in the trade market, trying add a center to fill the hole left by Dave Bolland. There is potential that the Hawks could move salary off the books by moving a player like Cam Barker in an eventual trade, but money would need to come off the books from somewhere to afford Keith.

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The other, highly unlikely, option to keep all three in-house would be Toews and Kane giving the Hawks a "home-town discount," effectively signing for under market value to give the Hawks the flexibility to give Keith an extension as well.