After months of speculation, hand-wringing, and gnashing of teeth, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman did what many involved in the NHL thought would be nearly impossible to do - he got his prized talent to extend their contracts, and avoid restricted free-agency.
The numbers that were widely reported were indeed the official ones, and here they are:
Duncan Keith - 13 years, $72 million (Cap hit of $5.53 million)
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews - 5 Years, $31.5 million a piece (Cap hits of $6.3 million each)
So what does this all mean?
Well, first and foremost on a positive note, the Hawks have wrapped up what they believe to be their core for the next 5 years, that core being Kane, Toews, Hossa, Keith, and Campbell. Not a bad starting 5 skaters by any standards, and every one of them an all star at at least one point in their career, and likely many more to come. Additionally, they've saved themselves the headache of letting other teams potentially offer far more than the Hawks would be capable of in the form of an offer sheet during next June's off-season. While the phalanx of picks the Hawks would receive in return would definitely be an asset (one the Hawks could have traded as soon as they were theirs), it would have stunted the growth of this maturing juggernaut on the ice, and been a big P.R. blow, something the braintrust is far more conscious of these days.
Keith's deal is far and away the most palatable cap hit of the three, and provided he stays healthy, we are all now likely watching the last man to ever wear #2 in the Indian Head. Given his size and the speed at which he plays the game, he could wear down toward the end of that deal, something that's not out of the question after what was shown during last year's post season run. But overall, this is a fine deal. The only major problem with this deal is that much like Toews and Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have become inextricably linked with one another, and their play feeds from that, and Seabrook is due for a new deal at the end of next year. While it's different skill sets, it's a reasonable argument that Brent Seabrook is just as valuable to this team as Keith, and should be paid accordingly.
Kane and Toews are a far more curious case. Their identical deals appear to be far less than the hometown discount many thought they'd give, and they also did not receive the "Blackhawk For Life" deal that had been hypothesized. Not only that, but the two of them will be completely unrestricted in their primes, at 26 and 27 respectively, and their salaries are likely to skyrocket even from their current lofty amounts.
From a wider perspective, these deals show that a) Stan Bowman believes his Cup window with this core is 5 more seasons, and b) Bowman is betting the house on his drafting ability. As mentioned above, when Kane and Toews are due, they will likely have a lot deeper resumes than they do currently, and will be expected to be paid as such, with potentially even harder cap hits. And it's possible that at that point that one of the golden children does decide to take his services elsewhere.
To the second point, with all of these big-hit contracts now on the books for quite a while, that means Bowman and the Hawks will have to divest themselves of some of the mid-range contracts currently on the ledger, and get younger and CHEAPER. We've all discussed the candidates to be sent packing for the sake of cap relief, and fuck knows those are our favorite discussions to have in the comments, but realistically, it stands to reason that not much will happen until the conclusion of this season. But, for those interested, keep an eye on the farm and in junior (which the Fifth Feather does a great job of doing for you- read them), as they will be replacing a couple of the Men of Four Feathers you are currently watching- particularly with now-a-priority Niklas Hjalmarsson and Andrew Ladd also restricted this summer. If you're not paying attention to the numbers that Kyle Beach and Shawn Lalonde are putting up right now, you'd be well served to- because Stan Bowman and his crew are.
While we were a little shocked at how high the numbers were at the SCH offices, particularly in comparison to some other names and their respective salaries elsewhere in the league, rest assured that we're thrilled to finally see the Hawks reward and retain such valuable assets and excellent hockey players. And now that this is finally done, it'll be nice to focus on the on-ice product, one that we're all seeing has the potential to produce something very special this spring and into the summer.