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Toews signs $84-million deal with Blackhawks

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Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Jonathan Toews signed his new contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday afternoon.

Yes, it was as big as anticipated.

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The eight-year, $84 million deal for the former UND star marks the largest annual value of a contract — and salary cap hit — in NHL history, surpassing Alexander Ovechkin.

These types of contracts aren’t regularly passed out. Teams have to be careful that they are giving megadeals to the right players. Otherwise, it could set a franchise back for years.

But there was never any question that Toews would get this type of a contract. It shouldn’t surprise anyone in Grand Forks who has followed his career since he showed up on campus as a wide-eyed 17-year-old.

There’s not a lot of risk when it comes to Toews.

On the ice, he’s a valuable player on both ends. He can be a 30-goal, 70-point guy on the offensive end. He’s also been a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s best defensive forward, the past two seasons, winning it in 2013. Even if Toews goes through a scoring drought, he’s still a valuable player because of his two-way game.

Toews also is a proven winner as evidenced by his two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals.

Off the ice, he’s a guy who takes care of his body, which should help the longevity of his career. It has also helped limit injuries. And you can bet that nobody in Chicago’s front office — owner Rocky Wirtz, general manager Stan Bowman or coach Joel Quenneville — ever worries about what Toews is doing away from the rink.

So, Wednesday was a celebratory day for the Blackhawks — not one spent wondering whether the contract would come back to haunt them.

It sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Two summers ago, it was another former UND player in the same position.

Zach Parise signed a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Minnesota Wild — one of the richest and longest contracts in NHL history.

At the time, the Minnesota Wild didn’t express much concern over that deal. It was a celebratory day. Once again, it’s for the same reasons as Toews.

Like Toews, Parise is a two-way player on the ice. He excels at both ends of the rink. He can score and he can defend. Off the ice, Parise is a former NHL captain and current alternate captain who takes care of himself at all times. He’s a complete package, which is why the Wild were so eager to invest so much in him.

The third-highest contract ever signed by a former UND player belongs to Travis Zajac. He inked a $46 million deal in 2013, making him the highest-paid player on the New Jersey Devils. He has signed deals for about $64 million in his career.

The common thread exists with Zajac, too.

He’s a two-way player who competes on the defensive end just as hard as he does on the offensive end. He’s also a guy who takes care of himself off the ice and shows up to work every day. UND coach Dave Hakstol once said he can count on one hand the number of sub-par practices that Zajac had at UND.

Toews, Parise and Zajac are all complete packages both on and off the ice. That didn’t start when they signed their first pro deals. It was evident from the time they stepped on campus as youngsters — Toews was 17, Parise was 18 and Zajac was 19.

Those are qualities that NHL teams want when they sign players to eight-figure deals. Toews has it and that’s why he earned one of the biggest deals in hockey history.

Schlossman reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1129, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1129 or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com.

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