The Blackhawks have a massive, well-documented salary cap problem. The team is locked in to expensive, long-term contracts with veterans like defenseman Brian Campbell and forward Marian Hossa. Toews, Kane and Norris Trophy finalist Duncan Keith were rewarded with long-term deals this season, and the Blackhawks chose to focus on a championship this season. They will worry about next season, in their perfect world, after a Stanley Cup parade.
That doesn't mean the players are not fully aware of the situation.
At a press conference podium on Saturday, Patrick Sharp -- a candidate to be moved -- looked at Dustin Byfuglien when asked about the uncertainty of the Blackhawks' future.
"Buff and I don't even know what you're talking about," said Sharp. Then he broke into a grin and said, "That's the first we've heard about the salary cap," and everyone in the room cracked up.
Give Chicago's players credit for being realistic and knowing what's at stake.
"It's been talked about, but we can worry about that weeks from now," said Sharp. "You look at guys that have been in the league for a long time that have played for this opportunity and we realize that it's right there for us. So we don't want to start thinking about where players will be next year. We've got to take advantage of what we have."
The Blackhawks, who lead the San Jose Sharks, 3-0, in the Western Conference Final with Game 4 on Sunday afternoon, understand that several of their invaluable players are on borrowed time. Of course, much of Chicago's supporting cast could be first-liners on other teams. Sharp had 25 goals and 62 points in the regular season. Kris Versteeg scored 20 goals and has been part of an effective checking unit with Dave Bolland and Andrew Ladd. Adam Burish and John Madden will be unrestricted free agents.
Blackhawks management would likely prefer to retain everyone, but that will be impossible.
"That sort of thing, where you're thinking about who's going to be back next year, a lot of teams deal with that," said Keith. "As players the best thing to do is not to get caught up in it and worry about it. Obviously, we like our teammates and we love playing together. There will be changes next year, as there will be with every team. The focus right now is just understanding we have what we have, the opportunity that's there, giving it everything we have with the team we have right now. Worry about what happens next year, next year."
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews was asked on Saturday about how his talented and young team has so far been able to reach the heights other contenders such as the Penguins and Capitals have failed to this postseason.
"Well, we have a great group," said Toews. "You look at Washington, Pittsburgh ... I don't really know those locker rooms. They've got the big names, the superstars on those teams. I think in our locker room, there are some guys that get more credit, but top to bottom, we're a complete team.
Every player on the Blackhawks will not be next season, so Toews, Keith, Sharp, Bufuglien and the rest are right to seize the moment.