LAS VEGAS — Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been nearly inseparable since entering the NHL at the start of the 2007-08 season, and it appears the cornerstones of the Blackhawks want to remain that way for the duration of their careers.
Toews said Monday he and Kane would again prefer to sign contract extensions together, much like they did when they inked identical five-year, $31.5 million deals midway through the 2009-10 season. The forwards have begun texting each other to discuss the possibility of simultaneously coming to terms on deals that can be signed July 1 and would then kick in for the 2015-16 season.
"We've been kind of going hand-in-hand almost our entire careers," Toews said in Las Vegas, site of Tuesday night's NHL Awards where he is a Selke Trophy nominee. "When we came in as rookies we've just been included in the same discussion for a lot of things — namely our second contract and probably this time again. The chances of that are good. But at the end of the day (Kane) has got his own needs and his own family, and you have to respect that as well."
Toews said Pat Brisson — his agent and Kane's — has been negotiating with Hawks general manager Stan Bowman. Bowman recently said re-signing the dynamic duo was the team's "highest priority" and he would like the extensions agreed to by July 1.
"We're in discussions right now, but as far as I know nothing is concrete," Toews said. "We'll see where it continues to go. Stan probably has a lot on his docket as the manager of our team so he's trying to get things done. Kaner and I will take it slow and make the right decision."
That decision, Toews hopes, includes donning the Indianhead sweater until they are ready to hang up the skates.
"We don't know what that process is going to entail exactly, but I think everyone knows we love Chicago and we understand how much we've been given by the organization and fans," Toews said. "We want to be there for as long as we possibly can be — hopefully our entire careers. That's the priority right there."
With that said, does the 26-year-old envision any scenario under which he wouldn't re-sign with the Hawks?
"Very doubtful," Toews said with a slight chuckle. "We like to think we've been some positive contributors to our team in the past number of years and at the same time we're very thankful for what we've been given since draft day. It's just about working something out."
As far as what else is on Bowman's to-do list during the summer, Hawks players realize some changes are looming — perhaps as soon as at this weekend's NHL draft in Philadelphia — after falling short of reaching their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.
"You always want to get better," said Duncan Keith, who is the favorite to win his second Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman. "As players, you kind of worry about just yourself and trying to do whatever you can in the summer to improve … and let management make those decisions. At the same time, though, we do want the team to get better. Whatever happens, happens."
Added Toews: "As players, you have your opinions and people can speculate on where we need more support and everyone talks about down the middle as far as centermen, but we've proven in the past that we have guys who can step up to the plate and play better and answer that call when it's time to play different roles."
Whatever tinkering Bowman does to the roster, Toews hopes it's minor.
"We didn't win a championship this year but we came pretty darn close, and if it comes to just making small tweaks to our locker room, to our roster, hopefully that's the only way it has to be," he said. "We believe in our group. We love our group of guys right now."