The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement does not permit teams to sign players to contract extensions which, when combined with their already committed salaries, would exceed the following season’s salary cap, which is set at the current cap limit of $69 million. Teams can sign players to extensions by using their current available cap space plus salaries to players who will become unrestricted and restricted free agents at the end of the season. The Blackhawks dealt with this issue while working to re-sign Kane, Toews and Duncan Keith to extensions in 2009.
The Blackhawks do not currently have any cap space for the 2014-15 season. They do have around $26 million of expiring contracts which they can devote to Kane’s and Toews’ contract extensions.
The Blackhawks are approximately $1.3 million over the cap for the upcoming season and will have to get under it before the season begins. If the Blackhawks trade someone who is set to become a free agent after the 2014-15 season, their tagging room will decrease.
The Blackhawks will also have to weigh whether they want to attempt to re-sign the eight other players who are set to become restricted and unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2015. Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy and David Rundblad would become restricted free agents on that date, and Johnny Oduya, Peter Regin, Michal Rozsival and Brad Richards would be unrestricted free agents. Contract extensions given to those players before or during the season would also have to be created from the $26 million in expiring contracts.
Whether Kane and Toews ask for $9 million a season or somewhere closer to $12 million -- the number which they reportedly began the negotiations with -- can greatly impact whether the Blackhawks can work during the season to re-sign any of those other players, especially the 21-year-old Saad, who could demand $4-6 million per season in his next contract. Tuesday marked the first day Kane and Toews were eligible to sign extensions, and general manager Stan Bowman previously expressed hope that extensions could be done for the pair as early as then.
Bowman wouldn’t go into any details of negotiations with Kane’s and Toews’ agent, Pat Brisson, earlier in the week, but Bowman continued to be confident deals would be done for both players.
"As in terms of the negotiations, I think I’ve been pretty consistent in saying that I’m not going to comment on them other than it’s ongoing," Bowman said on Tuesday. "Nothing has changed from my original expectation that they’re both going to be signed. We’re looking forward to that."
Kane and Toews are expected to agree to matching contract extensions, as they did in 2009. They agreed to five-year, $31.5 million contracts back then.
Kane, 25, and Toews, 26, were both top-five draft picks by the Blackhawks and began their NHL careers in 2007. They have won two Stanley Cups together, been to six consecutive playoffs and reached four Western Conference finals. Kane has 178 goals and 315 assists in 515 career regular-season games, and Toews has 195 goals and 245 assists in 484 career games.