Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Got A Few Dollars To Spare?

With over a half-billion dollars spent in the first few days of July on nearly 100 NHL players, NHL GMs have now shifted their focus on locking up their long-term assets as they try to finalize extensions with key pieces of their organizations. These are players whose names you'll see and recognize on the backs of jerseys worn by fans, and they are the cornerstones of the franchises who are extending them today and for many years to come. In saying that, these are the men who will be paid handsomely for their services as they look to carry their teams to glory over the length of their contracts. Today, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Cory Schneider got a lot richer with their new deals.

There's no denying that any of these players aren't going to be fixtures on their teams for a long time unless something outrageous forces their respective teams' hands in moving them. Kane and Toews have already won a pair of Stanley Cups while skating for the Blackhawks and should carry that franchise for the next eight years in the same way they have since they started their careers in the Windy City. Schneider, for his part, never got a shot at carrying a team in his time with Vancouver or New Jersey, but the door is wide open for him to grab the reigns in Newark and guide this team back to the promised land as Martin Brodeur once did.

We'll start in Chicago first where it was announced that the team had comes to an agreement with Toews and Kane on similar eight-year extensions worth $84 million apiece. Both players are represented by agent Pat Brisson, so the negotiations for both contracts was easier than dealing with two agents. Combine that with the fact that both players expressed a desire to stay in Chicago, making the decision by the Blackhawks to sign these two stars long-term a no-brainer.

"The signings of Jonathan and Patrick symbolize an important milestone in franchise history," Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough said to reporters. "We are driven by the pursuit of consistent excellence and today is a huge step forward."

While the cap hit for both is high - $10.5 million per season - there is no reason to believe that the Blackhawks will have to make a pile of side deals to keep these two stars playing in Chicago. With the CBA locked in place and revenues for the NHL continuing to grow, the salary cap will increase annually, making that hit a little less pronounced as time passes. While they command a pile of money this season, the two players traded the opportunity for future payoffs in the short-term for the long-term opportunity at winning more Stanley Cups.

"There's no organization in sports that cares more about the overall experience of their fans and the success of their players," Toews said in a statement released by the team. "There's nothing we want more as players than to continue to win Stanley Cups for the best hockey fans on the planet."

Chicago has their two superstars signed, sealed, and delivered for the next eight years. If things go well, we could be talking about multiple Stanley Cup parades during that time.

The other player that struck gold today was New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider. Schneider signed a seven-year, $42 million contract extension - that included a no-trade clause - with the New Jersey Devils today that solidified his status as the starting goaltender in New Jersey, signaling the end of an era as Martin Brodeur explores free agency. Schneider's statistics last season were some of the best of his career, and he should give New Jersey a chance to win every night this season in a competitive Metropolitan Division.

"It's a great position," Schneider told reporters. "I intend to be a loyal guy. I don't have a lot of interest in bouncing around from team to team, being three teams in four years. I found a place I really like and will be good for me, my career and family. I think it was an easy decision."

While terms weren't disclosed as per team policy, the cap hit for Schneider will be $6 million annually based on the term and cost of the contract. For the goaltender with the third-best GAA in the league last season, that's not a bad price for which the Devils signed him. His contract for $4 million per season runs out after the 2014-15 campaign, and he'd probably command a lot more on the open market. More surprising to me, though, was that Schneider's extension is the longest contract ever given to a Devils goaltender in that franchise's history.

"The timing was right," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters. "We had the opportunity to acquire Cory last year at the draft. We knew we did the right thing in making the trade. Rather than waiting, we thought we could do this now. It's a commitment for today and for a number of years to come. Cory has played a high level for a long time."

Having seen Schneider play first-hand as a member of the Manitoba Moose, this is a long-time coming for him. He was named as the AHL's best goaltender in 2009 with the Moose before graduating to the Canucks a year later. In tandem with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, the duo won the 2010-11 Jennings Trophy which is given to the goalkeeper(s) with the fewest goals scored against and having played a minimum of 25 games. He has also played for Team USA internationally at the 2005 and 2006 World Junior Championships and the 2007 World Championship. Outside of the Stanley Cup, the Vezina Trophy, and an Olympic roster spot, there isn't much that Schneider hasn't done. Now, as the undisputed starter in New Jersey, he'll get every opportunity to take the Devils as far as he can.

Three excellent young players made a lot of money on Wednesday, and all of them will factor into the success of their teams. The only question that remains is how much success will each of them see?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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