Chicago Blackhawks begin transition to offseason mode

Less than 48 hours after a goofy bounce off defenseman Nick Leddy put Alec Martinez’s wrist shot past Corey Crawford to end their season, the Chicago Blackhawks were back at the United Center to clean out their lockers and close the book on their 2013-14 campaign.

Many players, head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman all met with the media on Tuesday, providing an early insight into the Hawks offseason plans.

Bowman said that re-signing Toews and Kane was of the “highest priority,” which surprised approximately no one in Chicago.

The more difficult part of this plan is this: How much are they worth?

Toews is currently the most decorated player in the NHL with two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, a Conn Smythe trophy and a Selke trophy all to his name. Sidney Crosby is widely regarded as the best player in the NHL and he’s on a 12-year deal worth $104.4 million—or $8.7 million annually.

Kane’s name comes up any time discussions of the NHL’s elite offensive talents are mentioned. Alex Ovechkin, a 4-time goal-scoring leader in the NHL is playing under a 13-year deal that will bring him $124 million—averaging about $9.5 million per year.

Toews and Kane could each end up making more money than those players, considering their superior levels of success on the ice. Any deals that stay under an annual average value (AAV) of $10 million—which is how the NHL determines a player’s salary cap hit—will be bargains for these two.

Given the way the Blackhawks have handled contract negotiations with its star players in the past, it’d be a surprise to see these two make it to training camp this fall without new deals in place.

After that, however, there’s plenty of uncertainty for the 2014-15 Blackhawks.

Restricted free agent Ben Smith expressed a desire to return to Chicago—a move that shouldn’t cost the Hawks too much and should be completed. Q and Bowman each expressed excitement for another RFA in Jeremy Morin, who Bowman described as “knocking on the door.” But will there be some hesitance from Morin’s camp to re-sign with a team that kept him as a healthy scratch more most of the postseason?

Michal Handzus said he intends to play another year at the age of 37. That should happen somewhere other than Chicago, if that remains his intention instead of retirement. Decisions will need to be made on both Sheldon Brookbank and Peter Regin, who are both unrestricted free agents. Backup goaltender Antti Raanta is also a restricted free agent and appears to be staying in town for the immediate future.

For two weeks the hockey world will focus on the Stanley Cup Final, but then the NHL off-season starts in a hurry.

Beginning on June 25, teams will be able to meet and interview with potential free agent signings until July 1—a part of NHL’s newest collective-bargaining agreement. The NHL Entry draft takes place on June 27 and 28. June 30 is the final today that teams can send qualifying offers to its restricted free agents. Then, on July 1, the NHL opens its doors for free agent signing.

Although they reached the conference finals for the fourth time in six years, the Chicago Blackhawks won’t need a major overhaul to contend for a title in 2014-15. But expect the Blackhawks to be a tad more active than they were in the prior offseason.

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