The Chicago Blackhawks are in a weird space right now. For years, they’ve dodged the certainty that they needed to rebuild under the guidance of former GM Stan Bowman until, for a brief period in time, they said that they were going to rebuild.
Then, they pivoted back to the win-now mode by splashing it up this summer. The organization contested that they were still focused on rebuilding, reasoning that acquisitions like Seth and Caleb Jones were made with the long game in mind, and that could very well be true in the end. But, with Stan Bowman now departed and the Blackhawks now in search of a new hockey ops department and coaching staff after this season, it’s safe to assume that the organization will be in a rebuild mode for the foreseeable future.
I’m a fan of Kyle Davidson so far, and he’s been said to be the front runner for the permanent job. Davidson, or whoever ends up in that job long-term, has two big decisions to address in the not-too-distant future. What does the future hold for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews?
Kane and Toews have skated a combined 2,024 games in Blackhawks sweaters and led the franchise to three Stanley Cups in a span of six seasons, an era that will go down as the greatest era in the history of the franchise when it’s all said and done. One day, their jerseys will hang in the rafters of the United Center; there’s no doubt about that. Still, both will be free agents after next season unless the parties agree on extensions for them between now and then. What might those extensions look like? Will all sides even desire to strike another agreement, and if so, can they find common ground numbers-wise?
All valid questions that we’ll try to flesh out today.
Patrick Kane is still skating like a front-line forward and producing at a point-per-game pace in his age-33 season with the Blackhawks, so it’s a bit easier when it comes to the numbers on an extension for Kaner to gauge than it will be for Jonathan Toews. For the sake of the exercise, let’s assume that all things equal, Patrick Kane wants to finish his career in Chicago. That’s a big first question answered.
Following that logic, there’s the question of what his contract might look like on the Blackhawks salary cap, and whether or not Patrick Kane is willing to take a discount to help the Blackhawks fill out the roster with talent around him, that would give them a shot at making another cup run before Kane hangs his skates up. It’s hard to predict how Kane might feel about that, so we’ll plan…
Kane will be 34-years-old when his current eight-year, $84 million extension concludes at the end of the 2022-23 season. Again, I’m not worried about the age for Kane, as he seems to be chugging right along and might be able to play at a high level into his late thirties. Looking at elite wingers in their mid-thirties, Alex Ovechkin gives us an excellent ceiling to start this at. Ovechkin is in the first year of a five-year extension that comes with a $9.5 million AAV and cap hit for a 35-year-old who might end up as the most prolific goal-scorer in NHL history by the time the deal expires. Ovechkin had logged 1,320 points in 1,197 games played at the time of the extension.
Patrick Kane will be at roughly (extrapolated over the next 136 games at the current 28-game pace that Kane is on this season) 1,240 points in 1,189 games after next season. Before doing any research at all, I pegged Kane at $9-9.5 million AAV on his next deal, but I think I might have overshot it a bit with the numbers now in front of me.
Kaner will go down as the best American-born player ever and one of (if not the) the best to ever do it in a Blackhawks sweater, but he’s not Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s current cap hit accounts for 11.6 percent of Washington’s total cap, and that’s probably the ceiling for Patrick Kane at that point. Shane Doan signed a four-year deal with an AAV of $5.3 million with the Coyotes at 35-years-old back in September 2012 with 788 points in 1,198 games to that point. Doan’s deal was 8.83 percent of the ‘Yotes total cap at that point, and that’s probably a good floor for Kane.
With Kane taking no hometown discount, I would say that a five-year extension at an AAV of $8.5 million would be a fair number for both sides. The extension would take Kane through his age-39 season and pay him just under what the Caps just gave Ovechkin last summer. In a recent report, Frank Seravalli estimated the NHL salary cap to go up to $82.5 million for the 2022-23 season and roughly $1 million per season for the next five seasons after that as part of a lag formula. If the 2023-24 salary cap were at $83.5 million, Kane’s $8.5 million cap hit would be 10.1 percent of the Blackhawks’ total cap space, or about 1.5 percentage points lower than Ovechkin’s cap hit percentage in Washington.
If Kane came down to an even $8 million cap, hit he would be at five years, $40 million on his final contract, and occupy 9.5 percent of the Blackhawks total cap space in year one, and presumably less each year after that. This type of deal allows Kane to be fairly compensated while allowing the Blackhawks to add talent around him in hopes of competing for another Stanley Cup run. As it stands today, Kane’s $10.5 million cap hit accounts for a whopping 12.8 percent of the Blackhawks total cap space.
Final Prediction: Five-years, $40 million ($8MM AAV/9.5% C.H.%)
Like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews’ current $10.5 million cap hit (on an identical contract to Kane’s current deal) accounts for 12.8 percent of the Blackhawks total cap space. Unlike Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews is not producing at a point-per-game pace at this point in his career. Toews is on a pace that will put him in the ballpark of 925 points in 1,107 games played at the end of next season, making him far less valuable than Kane at the same point.
Patrick Elias’s three-year, $16.5 million contract with the New Jersey Devils signed at 37-years-old in July 2013 is a 91 percent match when you pull comps for Jonathan Toews’s projected age, games, and points. Elias’s deal came with a $5.5 million cap hit, good for 8.5 percent of the Devils’ cap space during the 2013-14 season.
I’d say that an identical deal would be pretty fair for Jonathan Toews at his current production level. Toews would be 35-years-old, and he would be making $5.5 million per year, a fair number that would account for 6.5 percent of the Blackhawks 2023-24 salary cap space. If you couple Kane and Toews’s hypothetical new deals, that would account for 16.1 percent of the Blackhawks cap space, a much more manageable number than they currently account for (25.7 percent). That would give the Blackhawks an extra $8-10 million to work with each season.
The question for Toews then becomes; A) How much longer does he want to play? And B) Will he want to stay in Chicago at that number?
Jonathan Toews is a Hall of Famer. Jonathan Toews will not be worth more than $5-6 million AAV in his age-35 through age-38 seasons. Those two things can be true at the same time, and that’s a reality that Toews will have to come to grips with.
I can see a scenario where Toews doesn’t sign another long-term extension with the Blackhawks. Whether it be because he retires or wishes to finish his career somewhere else, I can see the Toews era in Chicago come to an end in the next two years. If Toews wants to continue playing beyond next season and doesn’t want to play at that cap hit, then I would imagine that the Blackhawks would accommodate a trade to another team of his desire. Probably a Canadian team that would give Toews a shot at winning another Stanley Cup sooner than later?
If he stays in Chicago, I think that Elias’s deal is a reasonable ceiling for him at this point in his career.
Final Prediction: Three-years, $15 million ($5MM AAV/ 5.9% C.H.%
In the end…
Whether it be Kyle Davidson or someone else, they have a hell of a decision on their hands next year regarding the futures of two of the franchise’s greatest players. If I was to take a gaze into my crystal ball, I genuinely believe that Patrick Kane will get paid accordingly, produce the same, and finish out his career in Chicago.
As for Jonathan Toews, I’m not as confident either way. Whether he takes the pay cut and stays here, departs Chicago for another franchise, or hangs it up altogether, none of those scenarios would surprise me.