The Chicago Blackhawks today announced the re-signing of superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to identical eight-year deals worth $84 million.

Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews earn lucrative new long-term contracts.

Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews earn lucrative new long-term contracts.

 SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s an annual cap hit of $10.5 million each, making it the highest in the NHL, surpassing Alexander Ovechkin’s $9.538 million. It remains to be seen if there’s some measure of salary variance here or a straight-up payment of $10.5 million each per season. It’s not surprising the pair got identical deal worth that much. Indeed, it was expected the cap hit  for each would come in between $9.5 – $10.5 million.  

Some critics might quibble that they’re not worth that much, but considering the pair form the foundation upon which the Blackhawks are built, that they’ve led the ‘Hawks to four Conference Finals, two Stanley Cup Finals and two championships, with each winning the Conn Smythe (Toews in 2010, Kane in 2013) as playoff MVP,  I’d say they’ve more than earned it. The pair are considered among the NHL’s biggest stars  and are in their mid-twenties (Toews is 26, Kane 25). They will help keep the Blackhawks in Stanley Cup contention for most of the next eight years.

The bigger question is how these contracts will affect the Blackhawks salary cap in the near future. Those deals don’t kick in until 2015-16, meaning the Blackhawks now have over $65 million invested in 15 players for that season. Fortunately, all of their other core players (Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hosss and Patrick Sharp) are still under contract, but young ‘Hawks like Brandan Saad, Marcus Kruger and Nick Leddy become RFAs that summer, while Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival become UFAs next summer.

The salary cap could rise to $75 million next summer, giving the ‘Hawks less than $10 million to re-sign or replace those players. The ‘Hawks are also currently over the salary cap by $2.2 million, meaning someone on their roster could be dealt before the start of next season.

As long as the salary cap maintains a healthy increase ($5-$6 million annually), the new contracts for Toews and Kane will become less burdensome, though they’ll still take a hefty bite out of the annual payroll.