CHICAGO -- In a prepared statement written in exquisitely prepared PR lingo, Patrick Kane, the baddest man in skates, had this to say about his new eight-year deal to remain with the Blackhawks:
"It's great to be able to continue my career in Chicago. Playing with the best organization in sports and the best fans in the game is a blessing. Since I was drafted by the Blackhawks, the people of Chicago have really embraced me and treated me with nothing but respect. I look forward to many more years of success with the Blackhawks."
That's very nice. Which of my friends in the PR department wrote that?
Kane will speak in human English in a forthcoming news conference, and surely will parrot the same team-first jargon, but this is what he should have said after he and Jonathan Toews signed twin eight-year deals with a reported $10.5 million in annual average value:
"I'm really lucky that the Blackhawks were run into the ground before Toewser and I got here. Years of mismanagement allowed former general manager Dale Tallon (Remember him?) to draft us in successive years, not that it was a stretch. We were all lucky enough that the strong foundation was forming as Rocky Wirtz took over for his deceased father and lifted this franchise out of self-medicated slumber. I mean, my midget hockey team had their home games televised.
"As I liked to tell Shawzer when he's centering me, timing is everything. The Hawks have built a great organization around Jonny and myself, and we're fortunate for that. But mostly, I'd like to say: You're welcome. You're all welcome that we're two of the best hockey players on the planet and the Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups in five years behind our awesomeness. Let's win some more Cups and party for the next eight years."
Now that would be a press release.
I'm only half-joking because my first reaction after hearing that Kane and Toews signed deals valued at $84 million over the next eight years is that the Blackhawks are very lucky to have these two, the best players on the best organization in hockey, at least east of Los Angeles. This deal means they're paying them fairly for their services as they enter the final stretch of their 20s. This is how it should be.
A lot has been made about Toews and Kane, drafted third in 2006 and first in 2007, respectively, being good little soldiers for tying their futures together -- no NBA mercenaries here! -- but this was never in doubt. General manager Stan Bowman, the man of several facial expressions and an accountant's love for salary-cap detail, was never worried about fitting these deals into his budget.
You pay the cable bill a few days late. You don't mess with the mortgage.
This is the NHL, where the franchise-player dollars are small, relative to other sports, and familiarity is a virtue. Kane and Toews have the same agent, who helped this process along. Regardless, the Blackhawks weren't about to play frozen puck with their two franchise players. Not at this juncture of a dynastic-type run that has taken this team to new heights, both locally and across North America.
While this deal doesn't kick in until the 2015-16 season, just as a new Canadian television rights deal expands the salary cap, right now Kane and Toews, who debuted together in 2007, would have the highest cap hits among NHL players at $10.5 million a year, around $4 million more than their current deals, which they also signed in tandem in 2009. The cap is expected to allow for more of these types of deals, though the Hawks will surely have to move around other salaries to fit these in.
Ten and a half a year is old Ben Gordon money, what he got when he left the Chicago Bulls for Detroit in 2010.
But in the NHL, this is "max money." No other player currently has a cap hit of $10 million.
Where are the columns calling for Toews and Kane to take lower salaries for the good of the team, like some are asking NBA stars to do? Maybe I've missed them because they're written in Canadian.
Here in Chicago, no one's complaining. These two are the epitome of what we want in our athletes. Toews is the two-way captain, the tight-lipped leader who "leads by example." Kane is the flashy showboat, the scorer who gets the headlines. Yin and yang. A better combo than Harold's wings and fries.
We know what their average annual value is, but what are Toews and Kane worth to the Blackhawks? That's almost impossible to calculate. But add up two Stanley Cups, a sellout streak during which the team has led the league in attendance for six straight seasons, merchandise, ratings, alcohol sales inside and outside of the arena that go back into Wirtz Beverage coffers, and it's a pretty penny.
It's been quite a symbiotic relationship for this pair and their team. It will continue for years to come.
While it's fun to scoff at the Blackhawks' organizational self-seriousness, they have every bit of a right to crow. In the post-Tallon era, the team has cleaned up its salary-cap problems and wisely invested in talented young players like Brandon Saad. But a team needs its best players to stand out and improve every year. Toews and Kane have done that, and the Hawks have two Stanley Cups to show for it. While it was easy to worry about Kane when he kept showing up in the offseason news for the wrong reasons, the team seemed to have supported him in the right way, publicly and privately.
Kane and Toews will undoubtedly thank the organization for these deals when they meet with the media.
But whether you're Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough or some superfan in a No. 88 jersey, the next time you see Kane and Toews, thank them for being them.