The Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of locking up their talented young core players.
Kane and Toews are believed to be getting five-year extensions, with each of them worth in excess of $6 million per year. An announcement on those two deals appears to be imminent.
Keith's deal is said to be more complicated, perhaps as long as 13 years, and worth less than what the Hawks will pay their two star forwards, which is to suggest it will likely average less than $6 million per year. Because the NHL is so closely scrutinizing the ultra long-term contracts, it may take longer to dot all the i's and cross all the t's on the Keith extension.
In any case, it's only a matter of time until the Hawks formally announce all three, though it remains to be seen if Chicago runs into any “tagging room” issues that would prevent them from finalizing a deal until they open up some cap room for next season.
It's not inconceivable the Hawks may have to make some moves, if not now then at a later date, to deal with those financial and salary cap issues for next season.
Between Cristobal Huet in net ($5.625 cap hit next season) and a defence corps that includes Brian Campbell ($7.142 million), Brent Seabrook ($3.5 million), Cam Barker ($3.083), Brent Sopel ($2.3 million) and eventually Keith (let's call it an average of $5.75 million), the Hawks have roughly a $27.4 million cap hit for one goalie and five defencemen.
Up front, Kane and Toews will probably be around the $6.5 million mark in terms of a cap hit. Add in Marian Hossa ($5.275 million), Patrick Sharp ($3.9 million), David Bolland ($3.375 million), Kris Versteeg ($3.083), Dustin Byfuglien ($3 million), Tomas Kopecky ($1.2 million) and Troy Brouwer ($1.025) and the Blackhawks committed more than $32.8 million on nine forwards.
Add up the commitments on goal/defence ($27.4 million) and up front ($33.8 million) and that's more than $61 million, which is well above this year's cap figure of $56.7 million and there's no guarantee the cap will even remain at that level for next season.
Keep in mind the Hawks would also still have to sign restricted free agents such as Andrew Ladd and Adam Burish, among others, to say nothing of unrestricted free agents such as John Madden and Ben Eager.
In any case, it's pretty obvious the Hawks are going to have to shed some salary at some point. No one should suggest it's impossible to do. But the interesting question is whether GM Stan Bowman will do any of the trimming this season or wait until the off season.