Big Three Coming Back….Eventually

Rewind to four months ago and all anyone wanted to talk about was – How in the world will the Blackahwks manage to re-sign Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith? 

Nevermind that all three would be restricted free agents or that Blackhawk management had already designated them as their chief core players.  “IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!!”  was all you heard.

Well, it appears the impossible is on the verge of becoming a reality.  Now, of course, the question turns from “How do they keep their big 3?” to “How are they going to keep everyone together?” 

My reply to that is the same as it was last year when questions first started popping up about the impending restricted free agency for Kane, Toews, and Keith — Who cares?

A core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook instantly gives the Hawks a championship window for at least the next 6 years.  This doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to win a championship.   All it does is give them a front line not many other teams can compete with.

The hardest part -finding elite talent- appears to be over once these deals are officially announced.  Now what remains is finding the right mix of secondary scorers and role players all while finding room under the salary cap.

If you trust your scouting department, then players with an Andrew Ladd or Ben Eager skill set shouldn’t be too difficult to find.  While we’ve all grown accustomed to these players, the bottom line is, they’re all pretty much expendable. 

As far as what the big three’s contracts will look like, TSN’s Bob McKenzie explains:

Kane and Toews are believed to be getting five-year extensions, with each of them worth in excess of $6 million per year. An announcement on those two deals appears to be imminent.

Keith’s deal is said to be more complicated, perhaps as long as 13 years, and worth less than what the Hawks will pay their two star forwards, which is to suggest it will likely average less than $6 million per year.

There’s no use in getting worked up over the contract figures or cap hits until the actual numbers do come out, but the term of the deals appear to be accurate. 

Assuming all goes to plan, Kane and Toews will get their lifetime contracts when this deal expires.  A 5 or 6 year deal would take them to the renegotiating table as they’re entering their respective primes at 26 or 27 years old.   

Duncan Keith, on the other hand, will have his lifetime contract.  Before anything really critical is discussed about the length of Keith’s contract, the cap hit has to be known.  If a 13-year deal allows Keith’s cap hit to be $4 million dollars or less, it completely changes the argument as opposed to, say, a 13-year contract that has a $6 million cap hit.  

So until these deals are finally announced, all we can do is wait and wonder.

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31 Responses to Big Three Coming Back….Eventually

  1. Leonidas says:

    Why wouldn’t they do cap-friendly deals with Kane and Toews, with the implicit assumption of a renegotiation during their ‘prime’ period? More of the front loaded, 10 year variety. I would assume such caveats could even be built into contracts (during year x the player has right to a renegotiation or something). That being said, $6M a year is way better than the 8 I had been reading about.

    Looking over the Hawks financials at NHLnumbers you can’t help but think that, independent of his performance, the Campbell deal was horribly structured. Any chance team Bowman could squeeze the life out of the CBA and get a restructure on it, something more like Hossa’s deal?

  2. Dave Morris says:

    I love the rumor mill.

  3. deep throat says:

    Versteeg is day to day with a slight concussion and that nagging shoulder that will give him trouble the rest of the year.

  4. CT says:

    The NHL is not the NFL, as far as I know, contracts cannot be re-opened or renegotiated. You can buy a guy out, or trade him, or waive him, but I don’t think you can re-open a done deal.

    Also, considering the scrutiny that Hossa’s contract came under, I have the feeling that structured 10 year deals for Kane and Toews with “out clauses” in them, purely to get around the salary cap would not pass muster with the NHL. In fact, if Keith agrees to a 13 year deal that significantly lowers his cap hit, I think there’s a good chance the NHL doesn’t allow it.

  5. Lou says:

    Some of this is cart before the horse and until the terms are out, everything is pure speculation. However, the NHL is subject to the terms and conditions of their CBA and labor law. They just can’t say no to a contract without being able to defend it legally. The big $ question is can they? Because they don’t like it or think it circumvents the salary cap needs a lot more substance to justify.

    Now I am not an expert but if a contract meets those requirements they may not like it but they really have limited options. If they deny a legit long term contract that falls within the parameters of the CBA that they negotiated with the NHLPA, they are likely in for a legal battle initiated by the NHLPA (leaderless or not right now). The Luongo, Pronger, Hossa deals exist and they haven’t gone to arbitration yet for likely a myriad of possible reasons. One may be the fact that the loophole exists. DiPietro and Vinnie LeCav signed long term deals as well. So there is precedent and it is hard to say no once that is established.

    Bettman and Daly need to tread very smart here b/c they cannot afford another labor strike/lockout. This is obviously a key point to the next CBA negotiations and justifiably so. It probably irks them that Rocky is not his dad and doing something agressive that Dollar Bill wouldn’t. Additionally, if they want big network revenues, they have to be able to fill big markets. Lots at stake and a few long term deals through what appears to be a “loophole” might not be worth the fight.

  6. blackhawkbob says:

    Leo:

    CT is right; contracts cannot be restructured. Campbell’s deal is done – until death do us part.

    And, as far as your idea to include a “renegotiation right” in the Kane/Toews deals, no option clauses or voidable years are allowed under the CBA, so that won’t work either.

  7. Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler says:

    In regards to Keith’s contract, the NHL will just have to bend over and take it. As mentioned before, this is not unprecedented and I’m not sure Bettman wants to open that can of worms and have at it with the Zetterberg, Franzen, Hossa, Luongo, Pronger contracts.

  8. Patrick says:

    I love it – if the window is open, ram as much as you can through it while you can. The reason why Campbell doesn’t have a deal like this is that they really didn’t exist when he was signed – I think the Red Wings did the first one (to my knowledge, Lecavlier has a traditional deal) , and from there, smart teams are capitalizing on it. Oh, and BB is right – NHL deals cannot be renegotiated or have voidable years, etc.

    John hit the key point – the Hawks fianlly have young, home-grown talent, and if you can make them happy, you’re ahead of the game. Everyone behind the core is a spare part and can be replaced (although I think that I’d be close to adding Ham to that group, and Versteeg and Brouwer could play their way into it, at least in a few years).

    The reason for the Kane and Toews deals (at least the length) is that they’re young enough to get another huge payday – Keith, being older, probably isn’t, or at least probably wouldn’t get a second one as big as the first, so he’s going for longer-term security. Once the numbers come out, I think that these will be good deals for all – including the NHL – they need a big market like Chicago to have a strong team. I’m hoping for 5.5 for PK and JT and 4.5 for DK (or less, per).

  9. Lou says:

    One thing the Hawks ought to be doing in parrallel to the NHL club is to keep building talent in the support infrastructure. Keep getting great scouts to find the talent in latter section of each round, solid coaches and assistants at the minore league levels etc.

    This builds the talent from within and keeps the wheels spinning

  10. Leonidas says:

    Thanks for the clarification everyone – seems like my days as prospective GM are numbered. One more question/thought for those of you who are well versed in the CBA. Why is there such opposition to the long term, front loaded deals? Is it simply a barrage of complaints from less savvy owners who are handcuffed by big, more traditional contracts?

    The way I see it, a long term, front loaded deal helps both parties. The team gets a lower cap hit, and the player gets more money up front (length and total remaining consistent, a contract which pays $3 today and $1 tomorrow is better than one that pays $2 today and $2 tomorrow).

    @Patrick: I agree with your sentiment regarding the Sandwich (as any one who’s seen a game with me this year will testify to my new hero worship of the Ham), but having been in hibernation for a while I don’t have a sense of how hard it is to find a replacement for him.

  11. Patrick says:

    Leo – small market teams hate these deals – they can’t afford the years when they have to pay more than average, and if you have several players that you’re doing this for, there will be some years that you lose a boatload of money. They view them as anti-competitive and the league has taken the position of protecting parity (and Phoenix – the should kill that, and some of the other southern franchises) rather than the big teams – even though the Rangers would screw it up, even if they could spend as much as they wanted.

    One more person I would consider for “the core” – Bolland – is he, or isn’t he?

  12. Lou says:

    I like Bolland and if he was playing this year it would make it easier. I think he is on the fence and ultimately is a better third line guy than second. If we look at Madden’s contributions already we see how valuable that role is.

  13. Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler says:

    I don’t see how this disrupts parity in the league. Most of these guys signing these super long contracts were drafted by that team. The rules on drafting hasn’t changed. Draft well and make smart roster moves to build a contender. A small market team can do this just as easily as a big market team.

  14. blackhawkbob says:

    Leo:

    Patrick is absoutely right. One more legalistic point to add: the rules associated with player contracts and the salary cap were negotiated into the current CBA. In general, a player’s annual cap hit is his average salary throughout his contract term; front-loading has been used as a vehicle to essentially circumvent that provision, allowing older players to retire with significant time left on a contract after collecting most money due to them.

  15. blackhawkbob says:

    Wrestler:

    I see your point, but disagree with some of your thinking – most importantly your thinking that even small market teams can take advantage of the long-term, front-loaded deals. Think of the teams that have, to this point, used the strategy to sign a player: Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Vancouver. I don’t think it’s necessarily that a smaller market team can’t take advantage of the “loophole”; it’s that they don’t want to, giving the larger market teams the advantage in keeping or signing talent.

    You see Phoenix or Florida handing out a 12-year deal any time soon?

  16. Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler says:

    Right now, most small market teams (like Phoenix and Florida) don’t have anybody that warrants a 12 year deal. Florida is almost capped out. I don’t see why signing a home grown future superstar would hurt them if they’re spending up near the cap limit per year. Columbus signed Rick Nash to an 8 year deal.

  17. John says:

    MGRW– Jay Bouwmeester certainly would’ve warranted a 12-year deal.

  18. Dave Morris says:

    Geez, all these really smart folks here. Thanks gang.

    I really have to visit more often.

    The current blasts of hot air from TSN, notorious Hawks haters (though Bob McKenzie still has *some* cred left), reminds me of a quote by Albert Einstein: “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”

  19. feyer says:

    And now back to our regularly scheduled program…

    Maybe a TKK deal is imminent, or maybe this is a couple of reporters blowing a bunch of smoke and there is nothing remotely close to being signed. If there is no official announcement soon, then I suggest this becomes a major distraction to the forthcoming circus road trip – a key juncture in every season for the hawks. Time to focus on the task at hand.

  20. John says:

    There is way too much of a fire to think this is a bunch of smoke being blown up everybody’s yahoos. I was originally worried about this becoming a distraction, but from what I’ve gathered, it appears as though all that remains is some stipulations. Not to mention, I think it would be a bigger distraction if they were embarking on a big homestand rather than a road trip.

    If their road trip does end up poorly, it won’t be because they were distracted about three players’ contract negotiations.

  21. Patrick says:

    Agreed – even T, K and K are talking as if these deals are done…

  22. Lou says:

    I wonder if the Hawks are just waiting for league approval before officially announcing it?????

    AS I said, I see it hard for the league to challenge contracts within parameters of the CBA.

    I, like all Committed to the Indian, am anxiously awaiting these announcements along with a a few trades and then we can shut everyone up about the cap and focus on what is important. Knocking Detroit off the mountain and claiming the Cup and dynasty status!

  23. feyer says:

    There certainly is a lot of press, however I suggest much of that could be viral. Pierre LeBrun started the thing in motion when he stated on HNIC that deals with Toews and Kane were imminent. Then Mr Sassone (who seems to get his fair share of ridicule here) fans the flames by repeating it, and enhancing the story by adding Duncs to the equation. Then an unamed TSN source (who could very well be LeBrun again) essentially repeats the Sassone story and adds some hypothetical numbers. Nearly everyone since then is referencing TSN.

    I believe there is another factor, and I would be interested what the fifth feather resident capologist has to say about it. My understanding is that the hawks will need to have the deals signed by Dec 1 to avoid tagging issues. I’ve seen an estimate of the 2010 hawks tagging cushion being $14.3 million which I won’t even attempt to confirm or dispute. The TSN numbers add up to more then that. My interpretation then is that the hawks will need to move salary immediately before they can sign these hypothetical deals if such signing (and league approval?) occurs after Dec 1. Anybody else have a view on this?

  24. John says:

    Feyer– I respect Sassone as much as anyone, but when he goes off the deep end, that’s when I let him have it. Most of that is due to me expecting more from him.

    As for how this started…Yes, Lebrun started it. However, you’re leaving out Chris Kuc intially breaking the story in Chicago with his team source and adding Duncan Keith to it. Then Jesse Rogers piled on with league and Hawk sources. I believe he was also the first to throw out Duncan Keith getting a 13-year deal. At this point, that’s when TSN jumped in with McKenzie’s hypothetical numbers from a source.

    Since then, everyone else has since used McKenzie’s numbers. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that all of this was started by one source. There were too many news outlets claiming different sources to assume they all came from the same person.

  25. Dave Morris says:

    @John> Looks like this is a competition for eyeballs between ESPN and little brother TSN. Lebrun’s an ESPN/Hockey Night in Canada talking head, and McKenzie’s a TSN/CTV Globemedia flak.

    Reporters make stuff up all the time…

    Remember the Curse of the Muldoon?

    T/K/K will get signed, and Bowman will show his cards only when he’s ready. Don’t let his serene demeanour fool you…he’s as smart and ruthless as Scotty.

    BTW I met Scotty years ago when he was still coaching in Montreal…he was having dinner by himself around 11pm (post game)…I’ve rarely seen a meaner, more intense look on a man’s face. He was like a bull mastiff ready to rip somebody’s throat out. My friend (who knew Bowman) said hi, introduced us, and that was it. I didn’t need to be told why.

    People may not understand that this ruthlessness is what the Blackhawks need to become a Championship team.

    The Bowmans will make some tough decisions, and some unpopular ones, but they also know what pieces are and aren’t needed.

  26. blackhawkbob says:

    Ah, the dreaded “T-word”: tagging. I’ll write about it for tomorrow morning, as it will take some time to figure out how best to say it, but suffice it to say that the “tagging rule” is the NHL’s way of prohibiting a team from carrying players that would fit under the salary cap one year but far exceed it the next. As for December 1, I believe the date is irrelevant for purposes of extending a contract – and only relevant for the signing of a contract that would actually start during the season the contract was signed.

    That’s ugly … More on that tomorrow.

  27. Lou says:

    BB, I am going to go out on a limb and bet that StanBow has that covered. If he doesn’t, well we have a much bigger problem.

    I think this years salary is in part of that # too.

  28. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou>tag, you’re it.

    From the NHL CBA:

    From Article 50.5(e)(iv)(C):
    For a Club that wishes to sign an Unrestricted Free Agent following the commencement of a season (i.e., after the first day of the NHL Regular Season), if the Club signs such a Player to an SPC after December 1, then the following rules shall apply:
    (1) In order for the Club to sign such a Player to a one-year SPC after December 1 of a season, the Club must have Payroll Room equal to or in excess of the remaining Player Salary and Bonuses to be earned by the Player under the SPC in that League Year; and
    (2) In order for a Club to sign such a Player to a multi-year SPC after December 1 of a season, the Club must have Payroll Room equal to or in excess of the Averaged Amount of the Player Salary and Bonuses for the remainder of such season. If, however, the Averaged Amount of the SPC exceeds the Club’s Payroll Room for the then-current League Year, the Club may still sign such SPC, provided that it has Payroll Room and, if such Payroll Room is insufficient to acquire the SPC, it has an amount equal to one or more SPCs that will expire at the end of such League Year, in an amount equal to or in excess of the amount by which the Averaged Amount exceeds the Club’s Payroll Room (the “Tagged Payroll Room”). Until such time as the Club has or makes Payroll Room in the current year in excess of such Tagged Payroll Room, the Club may not engage in any Player transactions requiring Payroll Room, including but not limited to, acquiring an SPC or “extending” or entering into a new SPC (the “Tagging Rule”). In the event the Club does have or creates such excess Payroll Room, it may use such excess Payroll Room in accordance with the terms of this Agreement.

    Now, if you can explain that in English for the rest of us, John and Bob will buy drinks for everybody.

  29. CT says:

    I’m sure it’s more complicated than this, but it seems to me that this basically states that the Hawks cannot sign T/K/K to extensions at this time if the amount of the increase in their salaries will put the Hawks over the salary cap for next season, unless the Hawks have enough expiring contracts to cover the difference.

    I think.

    Anyway, does the December 1st date have any significance in this situation?

  30. Lou says:

    @Dave, Gee thanks buddy. My labor law knowledge isn’t as deep as my hockey understanding

    It seems like the key time period is after 12/1. We are before 12/1 but maybe I am missing the connection

  31. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> we know you’re One Deep Dude.

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