Toews and Kane ‘will be here forever,’ says Chicago GM


There’s been speculation the Chicago Blackhawks might have issues keeping Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane when they become unrestricted free agents in 2016.

To that, ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman has a bold response.

“Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be here forever,” Bowman told the ‘Hawks website. “I can’t predict what the salary cap will be in the near future, but I can tell you that Jonathan and Patrick will be on this team.”

The issue with 2016 is this:

Chicago already has $41 million committed to just seven players (Patrik Sharp, Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford) and, in addition to Kane and Toews, will have to deal with RFAs Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy and Calder Trophy nominee Brandon Saad, all of whom are up at the same time.

There’s also the issue of Bowman’s post-Cup spending spree.

Eyebrows were raised when Chicago guaranteed Crawford $36 million (and extended him through his 35th birthday). While he silenced critics during the recent Stanley Cup run, Crawford has never appeared in more than 57 regular season games and spent last year in a timeshare with Ray Emery, who had 17 wins to Crawford’s 19.

(It’s also not like Chicago’s goaltending cupboard is bare — they used a second-round pick in 2010 to select WHL Everett’s Kent Simpson and signed Finnish league star Antti Raanta this summer.)

The Bickell deal (four years, $16 million) was another eyebrow-raiser, even though the power forward was in line for a raise on the $541,667 he made annually on his last deal. The 27-year-old, who averages 34 points a season and 12:39 TOI per game, cashed in on a successful playoff run and a relatively weak free agent market.

But whatever the case with Chicago’s current financial landscape, Bowman remains confident it’ll have no bearing on keeping his two prized players in town.

“Those two players put the Blackhawks back on the map, they’re up in a couple years, and whatever the numbers are, we’ll figure out the details,” he explained. “The notion that the money we’re spending now will affect our ability to keep Jonathan and Kane…it’s a non-issue.

“They will be here no matter what.”

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.