Big deals for the Big 3: Hawks lock up Toews, Kane, Keith

  • Jonathan Toews

    Jonathan Toews Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Published: 12/2/2009 6:43 PM | Updated: 12/2/2009 8:10 PM

The Blackhawks locked up three more critical pieces of their future Wednesday in defenseman Duncan Keith, center Jonathan Toews and right wing Patrick Kane.

The Hawks' three homegrown stars have agreed to long-term contracts that will be formally announced Thursday afternoon in a news conference at the United Center.

Keith's deal is for a staggering $72 million over 13 years with a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million, which will take one of the game's elite defensemen to the age of 39.

Keith's new contract surpasses Marian Hossa's 12-year, $62.8 million pact as the richest in franchise history.

Toews and Kane have agreed to identical five-year contracts worth $31.5 million with cap hits of $6.3 million.

The signings have been expected for weeks ever since Hockey Night in Canada's Pierre LeBrun first reported on Nov. 14 that the deals were all but done.

Keith, Toews and Kane would have been restricted free agents after the season and ideal candidates to receive offer sheets form other clubs.

The question now is, must the Hawks shed any current salary in order to fit the deals for Keith, Toews and Kane into next season's salary cap, which is required under the NHL's collective-bargaining agreement?

As it stands, the Hawks have approximately $60.5 million committed to only 15 players for 2010-11. The NHL's salary cap presently sits at $56.8 million and is expected to either stay the same or go down slightly.

Neither Hawks general manager Stan Bowman nor president John McDonough was commenting Wednesday on the new contracts.

Rumors abounded Wednesday of the Hawks either waiving veteran defenseman Brent Sopel or trying to trade him and his $2.33 million cap hit to create "tagging room" for the contracts of Keith, Toews and Kane.

The name of defenseman Cam Barker also has surfaced in trade rumors. Barker has a $3 million cap hit and is signed for this season and two more.

The Hawks promised to take care of Keith, and they have. Keith is one of the NHL's biggest bargains with a salary of $1.9 million, which makes him the fifth-highest-paid defenseman on the Hawks' roster.

"I had no problem with that contract I signed," Keith said recently. "I was happy with it and I'm still happy with it. It's still a fair penny when it comes down to it.

"I have fun playing here and that's the main thing, being with an organization where you want to be."

Both Toews and Kane also have said they had no interest in becoming free agents.

"This is where we want to be," Toews said two weeks ago.

The Hawks have eight expiring contracts after this season, which plays into the formula the NHL uses to determine tagging room for 2010-11.

Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Hendry and Antti Niemi will be restricted free agents. John Madden and Adam Burish will be unrestricted free agents.

Bowman already has said on several occasions that not everyone can be back next season.