It’s hardly an “if” Chicago Blackhawks’ General Manager, Stan Bowman resigns Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to respective long-term contract extensions. It’s more of a question of “how much?” and “how long?”. The magnitude and lengths of their upcoming extensions will determine how long the Blackhawks’ “Golden Age” will last and how golden this golden age will be.
There’s no question that Toews and Kane are part of the Hawks’ “core”. In fact, they are the inner-core of the Hawks. Since the resurgence that started in the 2007-2008 season, the Hawks have been built outward, starting from Toews and Kane. Yes, players like Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Corey Crawford are considered part of the Hawks’ core, but they aren’t at the center of it. An argument can be made that Keith is right there with Toews and Kane, but that’s for another article. Being part of the “outer-core” is not a knock on any of those players, but it’s no secret they aren’t the nucleus of the nucleus of the Hawks. Toews and Kane are symbolic of the resurgence that has lead to the golden age, as much as they are instrumental to the Hawks’ golden age.
Now, as for the future. Both 19 and 88 have another year remaining on their current contracts. Stan Bowman has said that it is his number one priority to resign the cornerstones of the franchise. The fact that he wants to lock these guys up, a year before they hit the open free-agent market is smart, responsible, and should be considered music to the ears of Hawks’ fans. Now, hypothetically speaking, say Kane and Toews get extended 6 years, each, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the golden age will last 6 more years. It may take more than one resigning, but barring some horrible turn of events, both 19 and 88 will be Hawks for life, as they should. If just one of them signs elsewhere, it will be the end of an era, for sure. That’s not likely to happen, though.
As for the future luster of the golden age, that remains to be seen. Toews and Kane will both receive big raises on their upcoming extensions, as they should. You simply cannot argue that they don’t deserve more money. This means each of them will be bigger cap hits than they already are on the salary cap pushing Blackhawks. This will have a big effect on things to come.
Obviously, bigger cap hit = less cap space = it will be much harder to fill the roster with high-end talent.
While this is true, this is just the way it is, in the salary cap era of the NHL. A team will pay top-dollar for their core pieces, and top-top dollar for their inner-core pieces. Look no further than the Pittsburgh Penguins and the contracts of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins have laid their cornerstones(Crosby and Malkin) and built outward from there. This is how the Hawks will be set-up, for the next several years, with Toews and Kane. A team can only afford so many elite players in the modern NHL, and the Hawks have chosen theirs. It’s 19, 88 and the supporting cast. You could do much worse than that. In fact, the Hawks may have the best stars and supporting cast, as well as future outlook, in the entire NHL.
Is it possible that Kane and Toews take “hometown discounts” and agree to take less money to ensure that the Hawks can afford more top-knotch talent? Sure, but it won’t be a dramatic discount that will allow for a P.K Subban or Anze Kopitar level of player, but we’ll see. Even so, it doesn’t matter. The Hawks have anchored themselves to Toews and Kane and will fill the rest of the roster accordingly. They have done great so far.
It’d be wise to trust Bowman’s ability to draft talent, even with the disadvantage of later draft picks due to playoff runs. Look at Brandon Saad, as an example. Bowman drafts smart, and uses the Hawks’ minor-league system to develop draft picks into very effective members of the Hawks’ supporting cast.
However, it all starts with 19 and 88, and it will for a long time to come. As the inner-core is in tact, and the rest of the Hawks front-office and farm system continues on it’s current course, things will continue to be golden at the Madhouse on Madison.