The Chicago Blackhawks got out well ahead of any speculation in regards to the futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews beyond next season. The two Hawks stars were entering the final year of their contracts and would have been eligible for UFA status next summer. No more.
The leaders and lifeblood of one of the NHL’s two top contenders both signed eight-year extensions that will come with cap hits of $10.5 million. They are the biggest, defining contracts of the post-2013 lockout so far, where you can’t “circumvent” the salary cap by tacking on significantly lower-salaried years at the end of contracts.
The $10.5 million the two stars will make against the salary cap starting in 2015-16 will be the highest cap hits in the NHL, surpassing Alex Ovechkin’s $9.538 million from a deal he signed before the 2008-09 season. So, a new standard has been set in regards to how much money star players will make against the salary cap. Next summer, when Steven Stamkos can start negotiating his extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning, we can expect his cap hit to land around this number. Perhaps even more, considering he’ll have a higher salary cap to negotiate under. Read more
Pass the Advil, please. File this story under things that hurt the brain, like watching Inception hung over.
Last week, three hockey players were robbed in the garage of the Chicago Blackhawks’ practice facility, Johnny’s Ice House. Three men approached the players, two carrying guns, and one of the players was pistol-whipped before the players turned over their wallets and keys. A nasty, unfortunate thing to happen at any arena, right? Right.
Enter another regular player at the Hawks’ facility, Tim O’Shea. He wasn’t a victim of the robbery but, seeing he is a living, breathing human and has conscious thought, he found it disquieting that players were attacked at his arena. He expressed concern to the facility’s GM, Kevin Rosenquist, about safety going forward. Rosenquist responded with an email saying Johnny’s Ice House was taking the matter seriously and working with police to apprehend the robbers. He also told O’Shea:
“As far as your concerns with safety it is the city of Chicago and these things happen all over the place. It is unfortunate but true. If you or your friends are questioning your association with the league due to safety concerns then I would suggest that perhaps the city is not for you and you should look into playing in the suburbs.”
The Chicago Blackhawks addressed their need for an affordable second-line center by signing Brad Richards to a one-year, $2-million contract. The signing, however, means they’ll have to shed salary before the season opens in October.
CSNChicago’s Tracey Myers reports the Richards signing (as well as Peter Regin’s one-year, $650,000 contract) pushes the Blackhawks above the $69-million cap by more than $2 million. Under CBA rules a team can spend up to 10 percent over the cap ceiling during the off-season but must become cap compliant when the season opens.
GM Stan Bowman told Myers they had some ideas how to address the issue, believing it will “play itself out over the summer as we prepare for training camp.” Read more
All right, so now that (almost) all the dust has cleared in Free Agent Frenzy 2014, here are some thoughts on Day 1 of a crazy off-season:
MOTOWN NO TOWN FOR FREE AGENTS Let me get this straight. Dan Boyle took less money and term to sign with the New York Rangers than he could have received from the Detroit Red Wings. What is this, Opposite Day?
After pretty much ruling the NHL for the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times indeed. Remember the days when free agency would open and the Red Wings would basically open for business, basically telling whichever veterans stars they wanted that playing for the Red Wings was a privilege? The Red Wings never begged and they never got turned down. Read more
While the focus in recent days was upon potential trades leading up to the draft, a number of NHL teams are using the free agent interview period to reach out to potential unrestricted free agents.
Interest in Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is growing. The 28-year-old could become the best player available in the upcoming UFA market if the Avalanche fail to re-sign him before July 1. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun claims up to 15 teams have contacted Stastny’s agent.
LeBrun claims the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are among “the long list of teams” that reached out to the Stastny camp. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues have also expressed interest. Read more
With the Vancouver Canucks having hired a new GM (Jim Benning) and coach (Willie Desjardins), the focus returns to center Ryan Kesler, who remains the target of recent trade speculation.
Earlier this month it was reported Kesler informed Benning he still prefers a trade. There’s been some recent confusion, however, over where the 29-year-old prefers to be dealt. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are Kesler’s only preferences, prompting The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek to note the difficulty that would create for the Canucks to move him.
The Blackhawks have limited cap space ($4.6 million) for 2014-15 and restricted free agents (Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and Antti Raanta) to re-sign. They’ll have to either do a dollar-for-dollar swap with the Canucks or convince them to pick up part of Kesler’s salary to squeeze him under their cap. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but Sharp has a modified no-trade clause, meaning he’ll have to agree to the deal. Read more
With NHL buzz now shifting from the Stanley Cup and NHL awards to the draft and free agent season, the one thing that hasn’t changed with Kevin Hayes is that he remains unsigned.
Chicago’s first-round draft pick from 2010 has wrapped up his NCAA career after four years at Boston College. While the Blackhawks would like to sign him to a pro contract, they haven’t yet. It’s starting to look as though the Hayes camp is looking for another deal elsewhere. If Chicago doesn’t sign him by Aug. 15, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
Just speculating, but one reason why Hayes might not want to sign with the Blackhawks is because he knows they’re a team deep on right wing, both in Chicago and the development system. Behind Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg and Ben Smith, the Hawks have Ryan Hartman (first-rounder in 2013), Mark McNeill (first-rounder in 2011) and Jeremy Morin (Atlanta’s second-rounder in 2009) all pushing for promotions. It might be a full two years or more in the American League for Hayes, who is 22.
Hayes is a budding power forward who, quite frankly, had three ordinary seasons at Boston College before breaking out in his senior term. The Eagles’ website lists him at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, which is two inches and 15 pounds more than when Chicago drafted him four years ago.
The backyard pond is an iconic place for many Canadians and growing up in Winnipeg, the Toews boys first demonstrated their competitiveness on such a sheet of ice.
“They played a lot of hours on the backyard pond,” said Bryan Toews, the father of the clan. “A few times we’d see sticks flying, but no bloody noses, so I guess they figured it out.”
Jonathan and David Toews both went on to play the sport at a high level, but the older brother and captain of the Chicago Blackhawks revealed that competition at home would help the brothers abroad.
“He definitely challenged me,” Jonathan said. “He was two years younger, so I shouldn’t have had to worry, but it was always competitive.”
Going through the local youth hockey circuit, Jonathan recalls he and his brother both being at the top of their age groups as they grew up. David was taken in the third round of the 2008 NHL draft by the New York Islanders and followed his older sibling to the University of North Dakota before switching to Brandon of the Western League in 2010-11. Jonathan’s path has already led to the highest echelons of hockey – just as he planned.
“For myself, there was no alternative,” Jonathan said. “One level after another, you get better.”
Jonathan showed promise right from the start. His dad remembers him traipsing through the house in his skates and that passion carried onto the ice.
“He had been skating by the time he was three-and-a-half and had a stride at four,” Bryan said. “That blew my mind.” Read more