It's not going to take long for Patrick Kane to move up these rankings. He's the youngest player, 20, to make my list, and he's the future of American hockey and some lucky team in the NHL. But will it be Chicago? During the NHL playoffs, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock talked about how he was patiently waiting for the salary cap to break up the Blackhawks' young core (and he wasn't joking). At the time, I argued that Chicago should be in good shape when it comes to keeping it's core in place, but a lot has changed since then. Could Kane be the odd man out in the future?
Since we last broke down Chicago's future salary cap situation, the team has added Marian Hossa for 12 years (and according to him, it's great to play in a hockey town -- take that, Detroit!), and because of former general manager Dale Tallon's offer sheet mishap, Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker were given long-term contracts in the neighborhood of $3 million per season (each) a little sooner than expected. Looking ahead to the 2010-11 season, Chicago already has $42 million committed to just 12 players, none of which are named Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews. That could be a problem.
Both players are eligible for restricted free agency following this season and will be needing long-term extensions. If recent contracts can give us a ballpark figure of what to expect (let's use Anze Kopitar and Paul Stastny as a measuring stick) each guy should be looking at something around $5-7 million per season.
And that doesn't include Duncan Keith and Andrew Ladd, who will also be hitting restricted free agency at the same time. Perhaps Babcock was right after all. Chicago has already made Toews the youngest captain in the NHL, so it would be awfully difficult to see him being moved, which begs the question: could Patrick Kane be playing for a different team in 2010? If not him, you would have to think that somebody like a Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland or Dustin Byfuglien would be moved in a cap-saving trade. Of course, it's all meaningless speculation at this point, especially since Chicago has quite a bit to play for in 2009-10.
Draft Year: 2007
Selected first overall, one spot ahead of James vanRiemsdyk. One of already 22 players selected in 2007 to make his NHL debut, Kane is, so far, the best of the bunch, and should continue to be one of the best players in this class.
Why He's On My List
Kane has been one of the key components in Chicago's recent hockey revival. A gifted playmaker and skater, he's already one of the best wingers in the NHL. He came up big for Chicago in the postseason, scoring nine goals, including a hat trick in its clinching Game 6 win over the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals. Toews may be Chicago's captain, but for my money, Kane is the better player.
Obligatory YouTube Video
One of the prettiest goals of the playoffs, Kane takes a pass at his own blue line, smokes Jiri Hudler in the neutral zone, and places a backhander with pinpoint accuracy over Chris Osgood's shoulder. Detroit ultimately won the game -- and the series -- in overtime, but that doesn't take away from how awesome this shot is.