Kane inks rich 3-year deal

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

A whirlwind summer has culminated in a massive windfall for London Knights forward Pat Kane.

The 18-year-old Buffalo native, who was selected first overall in last month's NHL draft, has inked a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks that, with incentives, could be worth US$3.725 million a season.

The deal will pay Kane, the Canadian Hockey League's leading scorer last season, a base salary of $875,000 -- the maximum for rookies -- and up to $850,000 in A bonuses and $2 million in B bonuses if he sticks with the 'Hawks this season.

"To actually sign a contract now, it makes me feel that maybe I can make a living at playing hockey," he said yesterday from Buffalo. "It makes it real."

The Chicago pact was put in place days after Kane picked Pat Brisson of CAA Sports in Los Angeles to act as his agent. The slick scorer, who entered the draft without representation on a matter of principle, had been entertaining pitches from several parties, among them London's Siskinds Sports Management.

Signing with Chicago increases the likelihood Kane will start the 2007-08 season in the Windy City and puts a return to London this fall in jeopardy.

"I'm under the impression that if everything goes well in camp, I'll get the chance for a 10-game (NHL) trial at the start of the season and we'll see what happens after that," he said. Junior players with a contract can play up to nine NHL games before a full year of the deal kicks in.

Despite possessing a fine crop of young prospects that include Canadian international standout Jonathan Toews, it would be a boost for the long-struggling organization if this year's top pick stuck in the big leagues and learned from head coach and former offensive guru Denis Savard.

"Patrick is a dynamic and exciting young player," Chicago GM Dale Tallon said. "We're pleased that he will begin a long and productive career with the Blackhawks when we open camp on Sept. 13. Patrick will get every opportunity to earn a spot on the opening night roster."

Shortly after being selected at the draft in Columbus, Kane threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game and he and Savard led the crowd in the traditional singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame at Wrigley Field.

"I knew the words but they put a sheet in front of us just in case," Kane said. "I've had a very warm reception in Chicago. It was nerve-wracking throwing out the first pitch because it's not something I do -- I don't play baseball. But I'm getting another chance (tomorrow) because I'm throwing out the first pitch again at a Buffalo Bisons (triple-A) game."

Since returning to his hometown, Kane had been given to the key to the city in a public ceremony and felt the support of many well-wishers in a town usually dominated by Sabres hockey and Bills football talk.

"It's great to come back because my friends still treat me the same as they always did -- nothing's really different there," he said. "It (the first overall selection) ended up being a pretty big thing. Someone said that before that, the biggest thing in Buffalo (sports) was Warren Spahn making it to the major leagues in baseball."

Spahn, who died in 2003, is the fifth winningest pitcher in major league baseball history. If Kane capitalizes on his talent in the same way as Spahn, he'll enjoy a Hall of Fame career and get to sign several more big-money contracts in years to come.

"It's been really busy," he said. "I'm getting ready to go to a camp for the American world junior team in Lake Placid, N.Y., at the start of August and I'll be coming back to London for the start of Knights camp before going to Chicago again."

"I've had a very warm reception in Chicago," Kane said. "It was nerve-wracking throwing out the first pitch because it's not something I do -- I don't play baseball. But I'm getting another chance (tomorrow) because I'm throwing out the first pitch again at a Buffalo Bisons (triple-A) game."

Since returning to his home town, Kane had been given the key to the city in a public ceremony and felt the support of many well-wishers in a town usually dominated by Sabres hockey and Bills football talk.

"It's great to come back because my friends still treat me the same as they always did -- nothing's really different there," he said. "It (the first-overall selection) ended up being a pretty big thing. Someone said that before that, the biggest thing in Buffalo (sports) was Warren Spahn making it to the major leagues in baseball."

Spahn, who died in 2003, is the fifth-winningest pitcher in major league baseball history. If Kane capitalizes on his talent in the same way as Spahn, he'll enjoy a Hall of Fame career and get to sign several more big-money contracts.

"It's been really busy," he said. "I'm getting ready to go to a camp for the American world junior team in Lake Placid, N.Y., at the start of August and I'll be coming back to London for the start of Knights camp before going to Chicago again."


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