Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews

Focus in Chicago turns to Kane, Toews’ contracts

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The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t able to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for a third time in five years, but they have to feel very good about the team they’ve assembled. They’re still relatively young, deep, and most of their key players under control for at least a couple more seasons — with two notable exceptions.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will both become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2015.

It would be shocking if Kane and Toews didn’t re-sign with Chicago. In fact, it would be eyebrow raising if their extensions weren’t announced by the end of the summer. The bigger question is what kind of raise they’ll demand from their respective annual cap hits of $6.3 million.

Toews and Kane are both elite forwards and clutch performers that can basically name their price, but it isn’t that simple in the salary cap era, especially now that the new CBA killed the old model of signing superstars to heavily frontloaded long-term deals that kept their cap hits down (read: Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith).

Since the new rules came into effect, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Evgeni Malkin, and Claude Giroux have all signed contracts with annual cap hits in the range of $8.25 million to $9.5 million. If Kane and Toews demanded something in that ballpark, the Blackhawks would probably concede. Theoretically, they could try asking for more under the assumption that the salary cap will continue to climb at a healthy pace.

At some point though, it becomes an issue. Pittsburgh has dedicated $18.2 million annually to Malkin and Sidney Crosby and the team hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years, arguably due to a lack of depth.

Carrying players with high cap hits can be problematic, even if their play seemingly justifies the cost. Of the top 10 cap hit players in 2013-14, only one made it to the conference finals (Rick Nash). That number balloons to four in the top-20, but that’s counting Marian Gaborik and Thomas Vanek, who were trade acquisitions and therefore not the full cap responsibility of Los Angeles and Montreal respectively.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what Kane and Toews demand.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)

Video: Dion Phaneuf’s assist is his first point with Senators

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Dion Phaneuf‘s first home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators is going more smoothly than his debut did on Wednesday.

Ottawa fell 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last night, and they need another goal to tie up the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Phaneuf’s making a bigger impact on Thursday, collecting two assists … his first two points in a Sens’ sweater.

You can see his crowd-pleasing first helper above.

Here’s his second assist for good measure:

Update: The Avalanche held on, taking a 4-3 edge. Even so, Phaneuf’s getting a warm welcome in his new hockey city.