Since the Chicago Blackhawks saw their season end in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference final in late May, general manager Stan Bowman has been consistent and clear: his first offseason priority is signing superstar forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to long-term extensions.
Kane and Toews are both in their mid-20s and are due to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2015, although it's not expected to come to that. In fact, the Blackhawks are intent on signing their young, core pieces to extensions the moment they become eligible for them on July 1.
The extensions that Kane and Toews, two of the most accomplished young players in hockey, are expected to sign might give the hockey world a major case of sticker shock. From an 'NHL Insider' segment featuring TSN's Darren Dreger:
It's an ongoing process and you know that Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks are very eager to make sure that the star component of (their team) remains in tact for a lengthy period of time.
But we're talking about how the new CBA is going impact that superstar model of player and certainly Kane and Toews qualify for that. No longer is it possible to frontload and go with that mega deal of 10, 12 or 15 years. Now we know it's a maximum of eight years.
So it's not inconceivable that so long as the salary cap climbs to around 75 million in 2016, that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane could come in at around $11 million, $12 million each.
Currently the highest "cap hit" in hockey belongs to Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin, whose annual averaged salary is roughly $40,000 higher than Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin's $9.5 million annual averaged salary. Surely Kane and Toews will sign deals in that general wheel house, but could they become the first players in the salary cap era to break the $10 million ceiling?