The Chicago Blackhawks have made sure their two franchise faces remain in the Windy City for years to come. Captain Jonathan Toews and forward Patrick Kane both have signed identical contract extensions that are both below the NHL “max contract,” reassuring fans that winning is what truly matters. Having the Kane and Toews duo intact for the next eight years is truly a sight to behold as remnants of Jordan and Pippen flood the minds of all Chicagoans. However, if fans inside the United Center next season expect these two to build a 1990’s Bulls-like dynasty and win six championships, they will surely be setting themselves up for failure.
The eight-year, $84 million contract extensions that Kane and Toews both have signed carry an annual $10.5 million salary-cap hit starting in the 2015-16 season. Although these contracts were $26 million below the NHL “max contract,” any expectations of winning a championship after this upcoming season will take a ton of work, as most of the core of the team will be pieced away.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune touted the move as a “down payment on a dynasty.” He continues on with blind faith to say that the question Chicago fans should now be asking themselves is, “how close (will) the Kane (and) Toews era come to producing the six championships Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won.”
That is undoubtedly a valiant, yet dafter proposition to fans. General manager Stan Bowman is certainly putting forth an “all-or-nothing” approach to this season, but moving forward with $21 million annually tied up between two players will take a ton of creativity- and one heck of a minor league system- in order to pull off a Jordan-Pippen type of dynasty over the next eight years.
There is no disputing the fact that these two superstars are deserving of this kind of money, but there are other teams – most of whom are in their own conference – that are now better suited than the Hawks for a dynasty run moving into the 2015-16 season. The short list of teams ready to burst any dynasty bubble coming out of Chicago goes as follows:
LOS ANGELES KINGS – The Kings, who have lifted two Stanley Cups in three years, have seven of their core players set to remain in Los Angeles for at least five more seasons, readying themselves for an eminent dynasty run. If they can re-sign AnzeKopitar after the 2015-16 campaign, that tally will rise to eight. Their two highest paid players for at least these next two years are defenseman Drew Doughty and the previously mentioned Kopitar. Those two players only tie up an annual $13.8 million- a far cry away from the Kane-Toews annual $21 million. When or ifKopitar leaves, captain Dustin Brown will fill his role as the second highest paid player on the team, lowering the duo’s annual salary to $12.875 million. The Kings appear to be putting their eggs in multiple baskets, assuring players that if they all take less money, then they all will be reaping the benefits of lifting Lord Stanley for years to come.
COLORADO AVALANCHE – The Avs have yet to win a Stanley Cup with their core group of players, but the championship youth movement that is happening in Denver is one that appears to be nearly impossible to deny. If the front office can resign RFAs Ryan O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie, and keep soon-to-be stars of the league Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, rookie Nathan McKinnon and goaltender SemyonVarlamov together further than the three years they already have them all signed on for, then they certainly have a golden platform to build on. The average age of this core group of players is only 22-years-old; a great age to start building a franchise with.
DALLAS STARS – With the recent signings of Jason Spezza (1-year, $7 million) and Ales Hemsky (3-years, $12 million), the Dallas Stars, like the Chicago Blackhawks, are going all-in this season. Unfortunately for Hawks fans, after this season, the Stars will still have their core of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Ales Hemsky, Trevor Daley and net minder Kari Lehtonen intact until the 2017-18 season.
ANAHEIM DUCKS – Also like the Stars and Blackhawks, the Ducks spent a lot of money to ensure that Lord Stanley returns to Anaheim this season. Recently trading for Ryan Kesler and signing free agents Clayton Stoner (4-years, $13 million) and DanyHeatly (reportedly 1-year, $1 million) has gotten Duck fans excited at the opportunity of winning a championship over the next two seasons. However, even if they do not in two years, the Ducks will still have Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Cogliano, Clayton Stoner, and Cam Fowler until the 2018-19 season.
Signing Kane and Toews was a good thing for the city of Chicago for many reasons on-and-off the ice. These two are a great pair and, like Jordan and Pippen, they are great centerpieces to build a franchise around. However, an NHL team is assembled on more than just two or even three key players. There is a reason why the NBA has churned out dynasty after dynasty and why hockey fans have not seen a dynasty in over 25 years. Teams in the NBA can win with a big two-or-big three with some good surrounding role players. The same cannot be said about hockey. Comparing the two sports or even the two duos in this case appears to be ludicrous.
Although Kane and Toews signed for less than the “maximum contract,” an admirable and rare trait to find in athletes these days, the $21 million annual salary is an incredible amount of money to tie up in two players if a team plans on creating a dynasty. If fans of the Chicago Blackhawks want a glimpse into what the future looks like after the 2014-15 season, then they should keep an eye on how well the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins do this year as they each signed two players to similar contracts over the last two seasons. As it could turn out, building a dynasty may take more than just locking up two star players.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles