CHICAGO – This was a no-brainer from start to finish. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane wanted to stay in Chicago and the Blackhawks wanted to keep the high-scoring forwards in the only NHL uniform they have ever known.
All that was left was crunching the numbers on two of the biggest contracts in franchise history.
The Blackhawks announced Wednesday they had reached eight-year extensions with two of their top performers in a long run of success that includes Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2013. Toews and Kane led Chicago back to the Western Conference final this year, where it lost to the eventual NHL champion Los Angeles Kings.
General manager Stan Bowman said all along that the extensions were his biggest off-season priority, and it didn’t take very long to reach the agreements with Pat Brisson, who represents both players. Toews and Kane each have one year left on their five-year extensions from December 2009, and July 1 was the first day they could sign new deals.
Each contract is worth $84 million for an average annual value of $10.5 million, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce the contract numbers.
Toews and Kane made it clear right after the Game 7 loss to Los Angeles that they wanted to stay with the Blackhawks, who added #8MoreYears to their tweets about the deal.
“There’s no organization in sports that cares more about the overall experience of their fans and the success of their players,” Toews said in a statement released by the team. “There’s nothing we want more as players than to continue to win Stanley Cups for the best hockey fans on the planet.”
Toews, the No. 3 selection in the 2006 draft, was just 20 when he became the 34th captain in team history in July 2008. He is regarded as one of the NHL’s best two-way players, winning the 2013 Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.
Kane, the top overall pick in the 2007 draft, has developed into one of the NHL’s most clutch players after questions about his maturity dogged the dynamic winger for the first part of the career. He had the series-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals at Philadelphia, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as playoff MVP.
The 25-year-old Kane put on another impressive display in this year’s post-season, almost bringing Chicago back from a 3-1 deficit against Los Angeles. He had two goals and eight assists in the final four games of the series against the Kings.
The $168 million worth of extensions for Toews and Kane mean the Blackhawks have much of their core group locked up through the 2016-17 season. Bowman could face some sticky situations with the salary cap in the coming years, but his team should be a Stanley Cup contender for a while.
“The signings of Jonathan and Patrick symbolize an important milestone in franchise history,” Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough said. “We are driven by the pursuit of consistent excellence and today is a huge step forward.”
The 26-year-old Toews has at least 23 goals and 25 assists in each of his seven NHL seasons. He set career highs with 32 goals and 44 assists in the 2010-11 season. Kane averages 25 goals and 45 assists per year. He had a career-high 30 goals and 58 assists for the 2009-10 campaign.
More important for Chicago, each player has been at his best in the post-season. Kane is fifth on the franchise’s career list with 37 playoff goals and his 54 assists ranks sixth in team history. Toews (29 goals, 52 assists) also is in the top 10 in each category.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap