Hawks lock up their future

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:38 PM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Calgary Flames fans thought it was a coup when GM Darryl Sutter found a way to keep Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Miikka Kiprusoff in the fold.

How does that compare to what the Chicago Blackhawks managed by signing their big three Thursday?

Yes, the Blackhawks will have to use some fancy footwork with the salary cap in the coming years, and may have to essentially give away a few players when this season ends — Cam Barker? Patrick Sharp? Dustin Byfuglien? Cristobal Huet? Brian Campbell? — but Thursday’s official announcement ensures they will be a force to be reckoned with for a long time.

Forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are inked to five-year contracts worth about US$6.3 million per season, while Duncan Keith has a 13-year deal worth US$72 million in his pocket.

Since Toews and Kane are only 21 years old, their cornerstone forwards are in place for years, while Keith is part of the next generation of great defencemen at age 26.

The contracts pretty much ensure the Blackhawks fans will have a team worth following for the next decade, or more.

The deals will also give hockey followers something to keep an eye on between now and the start of the 2010-11 season.

Chicago has a staggering number of players who will have cap hits over US$3-million next season. On the list are: Marian Hossa, Sharp, Kane, Toews, Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, Byfuglien, Keith, Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Barker and Huet.

In fact, Hossa, Kane, Toews, Campbell, Keith and Huet all have cap hits greater than US$5 million.

After this season, they’ll have to rid themselves of a few big-ticket players.

Other teams will be happy to help the Blackhawks out of their financial predicament — for a price.

Nobody will do them any favours, but you can bet teams out there would like to grab a solid player and something extra.

Barring a miracle, Hawks GM Stan Bowman at some point will have to be throwing in freebies like a TV infomercial huckster.

Flaming C-notes

Flames captain Jarome Iginla didn’t see the Kamloops Blazers jacket former junior teammate Tyson Nash was wearing at Thursday’s morning skate, but had fun hearing about it. “Does he have the mullet to go with it? He led the way in that those days,” Iginla cracked.

Nash, who does colour commentary for the Coyotes radio broadcasts, actually had a replica jacket from his junior days — can you fit a coat from when you were 19? — and with so many other alumni around, such as Robyn Regehr, Shane Doan and Iginla, had to wear it.

Plus, he noted Iginla and Doan are part of the Blazers ownership group.

“You never know when you might need a job,” Nash joked.

For anyone who was on goalie Miikka Kiprusoff for his stats in October, even though the team was winning, note prior to Thursday night’s action he was fifth in the league with a 92.5% save percentage, tied for seventh with a 2.27 goals-against average and tied for top spot with three shutouts.

Frankly, a case could have been made he was more worthy of NHL’s first-star status than Iginla.

Hockey talky

Brendan Shanahan’s decision to work for the NHL will help the game, but can’t help but think he’d be even more effective in the NHLPA somehow. Shanahan was named vice-president for hockey and business development, and will work in several capacities ... Anybody else happy the Montreal Canadiens will finally be celebrating their 100th anniversary Friday? A two-and-a-half-hour pre-game ceremony before the Habs play the Bruins Friday night is appropriate. After all, the Canadiens have been dragging out their centennial celebrations for 15 months. The only thing that’s lasted longer was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ homage to their teams of the 1980s we had to sit through when the Flames were in town. Oh wait, that just felt longer. At least the Habs have something to celebrate over the past century ... For all those who say Canadian players don’t play enough of a skill game, look at the NHL’s scoring race. Of the top eight players in points heading into Thursday night, six — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, Dany Heatley and Brad Richards — are from the Great White North. We’re not trying to start a war among nations, but just wanted to point out Canadian players are talented, too ... Did anybody in the NHL have a worse week than Keith Ballard. First, the Florida Panthers defenceman nearly takes off his goalie’s head swinging at the post in frustration, then he crashes into Colorado goalie Craig Anderson, and get’s a pummelling from Adam Foote.

You don’t say

“If he changes his game, he changes his game. It’s not his game. He’s somebody else. He’s another guy with great hands.”

Washington captain Chris Clark on whether Alex Ovechkin should tone down his exuberance on the ice.


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