Patrick Kane

Jonathan Toews

Toews: With new contracts there’s ‘more pressure than ever’

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Expectations are nothing new to Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but even for them next season might be different.

In all likelihood, they will enter the campaign as the top two players from a salary cap perspective thanks to their matching eight-year, $84 million contracts kicking in. That pay raise from their previous five-year, $31.5 million deals combined with a smaller cap increase than expected has squeezed the defending Stanley Cup champions, leading to them parting ways with Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, and Brandon Saad over the summer.

None of that is to suggest that Kane and Toews aren’t worth top dollar after leading Chicago to three Stanley Cup champions, but they are aware that the expectations thrust upon them will only increase with their salary.

“As soon as the next season starts everyone tends to forget about what happened last year and it’s time to go to work again,” Toews told the Chicago Tribune. “We’ve shown we can do that and we know given the fact we just lost … important teammates and the focus is on us and our contract that there is more pressure than ever.”

Kane has thought about it a bit this summer too and realizes that that he will be expected to “live up to that contract.”

The good news from Chicago’s perspective is that the duo has been able to step up in the past under pressure, so it’s not unreasonable to believe that they will be able to rise to the occasion again. That being said, they’ve never single handily won anything for Chicago nor can they do so going forward. A big part of the Blackhawks’ strength has been their superb supporting cast and with some key members of it now gone, the pressure will be on others to step up and fill the void as much as it will be on Kane and Toews to continue to lead the charge.

Kane thinks Anisimov could be ‘ideal’ fit as his center in Chicago

Patrick Kane
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The Chicago Blackhawks are going to look different in quite a few ways next season, and that’s definitely true down the middle.

Of course, Jonathan Toews stands as the No. 1 center, but thinks get interesting after that. Head coach Joel Quenneville indicated that Artem Anisimov will take the second spot while Teuvo Teravainen is expected to slide from the wing to a third-line center role, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Boasting considerable size and a change-of-pace style compared to recent second-line centers in Chicago (he certainly won’t be confused for Brad Richards), Anisimov should make for an awfully interesting fit.

Patrick Kane indicated on Friday that he’s excited to line up with the towering pivot.

“He’s a big, smart, two-way centerman, a left-handed shot,” Kane said, according to the Sun-Times. “That’s kind of the ideal center for someone like myself. He’s also got the skill, too. He could be a really dangerous fit on our team. So I’m looking forward to the chance of playing with him, if that’s the case.”

Second City Hockey points out that the Blackhawks have been hoping to plug someone like Anisimov, 27, into that second-line spot for some time.

After the Hawks sorted through a number of options last season, eventually giving up a first-round pick to rent Antoine Vermette, Anisimov can be the big (6’4, 198 pounds) center who eats minutes and plays the two-way game that coach Joel Quenneville craves. He’s not a flashy scorer, but certainly brings a change of pace from many of the team’s other options, including [Marko] Dano.

It’s been a turbulent offseason for Chicago, but this franchise has weathered storms and changes before. Blackhawks management might just seem ahead of the curve – again – if players like Anisimov and Teravainen really take off going forward.

PHT Morning Skate: Columnist says Sharp’s contributions to ‘Hawks went beyond numbers

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Chicago lost more than Patrick Sharp’s offensive contributions when they dealt him. (Chicago Tribune)

T.J. Oshie ran into one of the two players he was traded for, Troy Brouwer, while touring Kettler Capitals Iceplex. (Washington Post)

Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas feels prospect Frederik Gauthier is “an interesting paradox.” (Toronto Star)

While some might have predicted Matt Beleskey would end up with a significantly bigger contract than the five-year, $19 million deal he signed, Beleskey wasn’t one of them. (Boston Herald)

When Noah Hanifin woke up on Saturday, he wasn’t sure that he would be signing with the Carolina Hurricanes that day, but ultimately he felt ready to go pro after spending a season with Boston College. (The News & Observer)

It looks like Mike Gillis, the former president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, will be teaching Sports Law at the University of Victoria. (UVIC)

Finally, we already mentioned it on Saturday, but if you haven’t read Sheldon Souray’s retirement letter then it really is worth it. There’s strong language in it though, so please keep that in mind. (The Players’ Tribune)

Change of Heart: Stars acquire Sharp from Blackhawks

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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Just prior to last month’s NHL Draft, a Dallas Stars official told The Dallas Morning News that Patrick Sharp was “not what we need right now.”

That was then.

On Friday, Dallas acquired Sharp along with defenseman Stephen Johns from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.

Prior to the trade, the Blackhawks were $718,460 over the cap for next season.

Sharp, who was a member of all three of Chicago’s Stanley Cup wins, has two years remaining on his existing deal with a $5.9 million cap hit.

“On behalf of the entire Blackhawks organization, I’d like to thank Patrick for all that he helped our franchise accomplish during his time in Chicago, especially serving an integral role in bringing us three Stanley Cup championships,” said Hawks’ GM Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He was one of our leaders on the ice, most notably as an alternate captain for several seasons, as well as off the ice with his countless contributions and volunteer work with team partners, sponsors and Blackhawks fans everywhere.

“He will forever be a Blackhawk and we wish him and his family nothing but the best in Dallas and beyond.”

Johns, 23, has yet to make his NHL debut.

The 6-foot-4, 233-pound blue liner registered a career-high four goals and 21 points in 51 AHL games with the Rockford IceHogs last season.

“Stephen adds to the corps of young defensemen that we have coming up in our system,” said Stars’ GM Jim Nill. “He brings an element of size and physicality to our mix and we look forward to him coming in and competing.”

Garbutt has spent parts of the past four seasons in Dallas. The 29-year-old scored eight goals and 25 points in 67 games last season.

Daley has two years left on his deal with a $3.3 million cap hit. The 31-year-old scored 16 goals and 38 points to go along with a minus-13 rating in 68 games last season.

“We want to thank both Trevor and Ryan for their contributions to the Dallas Stars,” said Nill. “Trevor has been an important piece of the Stars organization for many years and we could not be more grateful to him. The strong leadership he displayed both in the locker room and in the North Texas community has created a lasting impact on everyone around him. We wish them both the best.”

Related: Toews admits Chicago’s cap crunch feels ‘a lot like 2010′

Voracek’s agent begins extension talks with Flyers

Jakub Voracek
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The Philadelphia Flyers need to agree to terms with restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, but they’re otherwise pretty much set for training camp. That doesn’t mean the rest of the summer will be uneventful though.

Jakub Voracek is going into the final season of his four-year, $17 million contract and the Flyers might avoid the uncertainty that comes with that by re-signing him this summer. His agent Petr Svoboda has begun talks with the team, per CSN Philly.

The 25-year-old forward scored 22 goals and 81 points in 82 contests last season, so he’s in line for a big raise. He’s not much older than Vladimir Tarasenko, who signed a eight-year, $60 million deal on Tuesday. It’s not a perfect comparable because Tarasenko is more of a goal scorer while Voracek has more NHL experience. Voracek also has a better track record over the last three seasons with 189 points in 212 games compared to Tarasenko’s 135 points in 179 contests.

In fact, over the last three campaigns, Voracek ranks eighth in total points among players that are 28 years old or younger. Of those in the top-10, the only ones to re-sign within the last year were Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (ninth and 10th respectively), who inked matching eight-year, $84 million contracts. But of course, Kane and Toews are being paid for more than just their point production.

CSN Philly speculated that Voracek is probably looking at a five-year deal that comes with at least a $7 million annual cap hit and in this market, that would probably be seen as good value.