Archive | June, 2014

What $12 million asking price means for Kane and Toews, Blackhawks

28 Jun
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

Blackhawks superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have announced an initial asking price of $12 million per year for their contract extensions.
Credit: blogs.suntimes.com

Most professional sports franchises have a “face,” a single player who defines what the organization stands for and represents the team’s skill and character. In the case of the Chicago Blackhawks, they have two faces: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Both Blackhawks will become free agents at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 NHL campaign, but General Manager Stan Bowman has no intentions of letting his superstars reach the market. Bowman has often expressed his desire to sign Kane and Toews to contract extensions by July 1, or shortly thereafter.

Now, he has a starting point to work with.

Kane and Toews – both represented by the same agent, Pat Brisson – have announced they are each seeking an initial asking price of $12 million per year.

Their statistics may not necessarily indicate the type of production worthy of such contracts – Kane and Toews peaked at 88 and 76 points, respectively, in a single season – but there is something more to these two players that supports their argument to become the highest-paid players in NHL history.

Toews is arguably the best leader in professional hockey, and if you want to take it a step further, he might even be the best leader in all of sports.

Kane is one of the most dazzling playmakers in the game. With his mesmerizing stick-handling skills, he often catches opposing defenders flatfooted while admiring his brilliance with the puck.

They are superstars in their own way and provide a one-two punch that many teams across the league are desperate to have.

That being said, perhaps their greatest contribution has nothing to do with what they are capable of on the ice.

After signing identical five-year deals worth $31.5 million in 2009, the duo has led the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup titles in five years and re-energized a fan base that dealt with mediocrity for several seasons before the Kane and Toews era.

They have meant more to the city of Chicago than simply being professional hockey players, and, for that reason, their value is higher.

What might this mean for other members on the team?

Brandon Bollig found out the hard way. On the second day of this year’s NHL Draft, he was traded to the Calgary Flames for a third-round draft pick, with which the Blackhawks selected forward Matheson Iacopelli at No. 83 overall.

Let’s face it, Bollig couldn’t skate or shoot, at least not well enough to justify paying him more than $1 million a year to be a fourth-liner and often a healthy scratch. He also lacked the physical presence the Blackhawks were looking for.

The organization is in a position where it must cut all possible dead weight to clear enough cap space for the eventual blockbuster deals for Kane and Toews.

Additionally, there are multiple core players on the Blackhawks’ roster who currently carry a cap number exceeding $4 million per year, including Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford.

Sharp has been rumored to be expendable in the Blackhawks’ pursuit for a No. 2 center, but Bowman assured Sharp’s agent that he will not be shopped. Sharp led the Hawks in scoring last season with 78 points (34 goals, 44 assists), but his streakiness and lack of production in the playoffs are a bit concerning. With a number of young, hungry wingers in the system, parting ways with Sharp and his $5.9 million annual salary wouldn’t be a bad option.

Kane and Toews are incredibly talented and deserving of lucrative contracts, but they aren’t stupid. They realize an annual salary of $12 million per year could possibly jeopardize the team’s ability to add more talent around them to make more Stanley Cup runs in the coming years.

Bowman almost certainly understands that, as well. He has done a tremendous job assembling a championship-caliber team each year, and I would expect that to continue, even with Kane and Toews on the roster and their pricey contracts on the books.

Before anyone starts calling Kane and Toews greedy or criticizes their misinterpreted disregard for the rest of the roster, just remember the $12 million figure is simply a conversation starter, and it’s highly unlikely they will receive that amount of money.

I believe Kane and Toews will each settle for somewhere in the $10 million range, which would still make them the NHL’s highest-paid duo, and, in all honesty, they deserve it.

Let the front office worry about making the necessary transactions. Instead, go out and buy yourself a Kane or Toews sweater, and rest assured knowing the faces of the franchise will be around for many years to come.

 

Colin Kaepernick’s big-money deal is good news for Packers

5 Jun
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrates with his signature bicep kiss.
Credit: csmonitor.com

Most Packers fans recognize Colin Kaepernick as the guy who ended the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes the past two seasons. Kaepernick tore up a feeble Packers defense, running his way to berths in the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship game, and ultimately a lucrative contract extension. Now, he’s the sixth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL, and he’s just getting started.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers signed their impressive young quarterback to a six-year contract extension worth up to $126 million, with $61 million guaranteed. That is the most guaranteed money for a player in NFL history. The deal features a signing bonus of $12 million, and averages around $19 million per year but could reach $21 million with playoff and Super Bowl incentives.

While the $61 million in guarantees are on a year-to-year basis, the 49ers must be careful when spending money moving forward. Their situation is similar to the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, who signed cornerback Richard Sherman to a four-year extension worth $57.4 million, including $40 million guaranteed. This was shortly after they signed safety Earl Thomas to a four-year extension of his own, worth $40 million with $27.75 million guaranteed.

Two of the Packers’ primary contenders aren’t being shy about spending their money, and, until this point, the 49ers and Seahawks have benefited from several of their star players participating under their rookie contracts, resulting in continued success. But what happens when these players realize their value and their rookie contracts expire?

They want to get paid.

After next season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson also will ink a new contract, which is expected to exceed $20 million per year, similar to Kaepernick’s extension.

There may not be any initial consequences following the 49ers’ and Seahawks’ big-money transactions, but these deals may eventually force the two teams to part ways with core players. This is necessary to clear enough cap space to accommodate the contracts of their top-tier talent in the coming years.

Let’s not forget, the NFL is a business.

Where do the Packers fit into all this contract talk? The Packers do indeed have an advantage over the 49ers and Seahawks, considering their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a majority of integral players on the roster are signed for the long term. Those who aren’t will most likely be retained.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson stands by his players with his draft-and-develop philosophy, which is a primary reason why the Packers are a competitive franchise year-in and year-out.

The Packers’ two premier receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, are set to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2014 campaign. They are both due for a healthy paycheck. With an estimated $14 million in cap space, signing the star wide outs shouldn’t be a problem for Thompson and the Packers front office. The organization already has acknowledged Nelson’s contract is a “priority.”

With a core of veterans under contract, complemented by a deep group of cheap, young talent and a substantial amount of cap space, I expect the Packers to be a contender yet again in 2014 and beyond.

We’ll find out in Week One, when the Packers face off against the Seahawks to open the 2014 NFL season.