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Blackhawks Fri Sep 06 2013

Bowman Says Kane And Toews Are Here Forever

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png With the recent re-signings of Corey Crawford to a 6-year, $36-million deal, and Niklas Hjalmarsson to a 5-year, $20.5 million deal, all eyes looked to general manager Stan Bowman in an effort to pick his brain on how he eventually will manage to re-sign franchise players Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

You see, both Kane and Toews's (both unrestricted free agents) contracts are up after next season (2014-'15), which is the same time Marcus Kruger (restricted free agent), Brandon Saad (RFA), Johnny Oduya (UFA), Nick Leddy (RFA) and Michal Rozsíval's (UFA) contracts are all up. And while Bowman has proven to turn around the glorious, yet near disastrous, contracts signed by Dale Tallon, he'll certainly have some work to do come two years from now. (Saad likely is to get a significant bump.)

Not to worry, right? According to Bowman, in a recent interview with Bob Verdi, the four-year GM stated, "Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be here forever."

The statement was followed with Bowman being unsure of the salary cap down the road, which should rise, if even a little, from its current ceiling of $64.3 million. Rest assured, it's safe to say Bowman and company will do whatever possible to keep its two marquee figures on board who helped put the "Mad" in the Madhouse on Madison (sign indoors being removed notwithstanding).

This season, only Jamal Mayers is marked as an unrestricted free agent. The big fella will turn 39 on October 24. He's an enforcer who certainly will, once again, see more playing time during the regular season (nineteen games with two assists) over the playoffs (zero games with...). With his $650,000 salary coming, it's likely the pocket change for which he's owed likely will be his last -- not to mention, he simply might retire.

Looking ahead to what goes down after this season, one in which the team will strut as defending champs, it's interesting to guess as to who might stick and stay or who will be sent packing.

  • Nikolai Khabibulin:
  • The "Bulin Wall" likely is gone with his $2 million tag as an unrestricted free agent. With Antti Raanta (currently on the non-roster list) waiting in the wings as Crawford's backup with $1.4 million (also up after this season), the 40-year-old backstop also might hang it up, or look to sit somewhere else.
  • Sheldon Brookbank:
  • Brookbank played 26 regular-season games last year and finished with one point and a minus-2. Not to mention, one playoff game, which was in Game 4 against the Kings in the Western Conference Finals, where he finished with a minus-2. He's a little sluggish on the skates, and could free up $1.25 million from the cap.
  • Michal Handzuš:
  • Zus crawled through the playoffs with what eventually was revealed as having played with a broken wrist and a torn MCL. The 36-year-old looked old and slow compared to his competition, and the injuries certainly played a factor. Odds are he might retire or continue to play; odds are, it won't be for coach Quenneville. His $1 million off the payroll will be welcomed.

After that, you get to the young guns in Jeremy Morin ($886,667); Jimmy Hayes ($875,000); Andrew Shaw ($577,500) and Brandon Bollig ($575,000), all whom have spent time in the bigs and in Rockford, filling in as needed. Shaw is the most interesting, as he certainly is due for a payday, considering his coming-of-age during last season's playoff run. The others likely are due for a pay raise, but all being dependent on how they perform with increased ice time this year.

With all that said, and taking into effect that the Blackhawks part ways with the elder statesmen plus Brookbank, that frees up a total of $4.9 million. Then, assuming they keep Raanta as Crawford's full-time backup, and add his $1.4 million to the tab, it leaves $3.5 million on the table.

As mentioned, if any of the younger guys gets a significant raise, it's Shaw. His tab might reach upwards of $1 million, or maybe even $1.5 million. He's fast, played well in the regular and post season, and he's got what Hawk Harrelson might refer to as the "TWTW."

It's the ultimate in balancing a checkbook, which has proven successful for Bowman. Let's not even get into Brent Seabrook's $5.8 million salary, which is up after the 2015-'16 season -- a season after Kane and Toews are locked in.

The two superstars each make $6.3 million, but would they each take a pay cut, even if a small one, in order to keep the core together? It's one question to raise and one that might happen. However, if either are dangled $8 million in front of them, who could blame them to jump ship?

It's one thing to say you never want to look ahead, and only to focus on the present goal: retaining the Cup. But in the cap era it's just as important to make sure Lord Stanley stays put in the Windy City. Stan Bowman has his work cut out for him, even if it means making sure, no matter the cost, keeping the Captain and the Conn Smythe winner on the west side forever.

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