By waiting until Thursday to announce the contract extensions, the Blackhawks made it under the limit, even though they will be walking a fine line from now until the trading deadline in trying to stay on the right side of the cap, and may still move a player (Brent Sopel, Patrick Sharp) if it becomes necessary.
Chicago carried only 22 players on its six-game road trip at the end of November and constantly shuttled Bryan Bickell back and forth between their minor-league affiliate.
Losing Andrew Ebbett on waivers to the Minnesota Wild also saved them a few precious dollars.
Keith, meanwhile, will be the highest-paid defenceman in the NHL next year, at $8 million, followed by Pronger ($7.6 million) and Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million).
In all, Keith gets three years at $8 million. From there, it drops slightly every year: To $7.665 million, $7.6, $7.5, $6, $5, $4.5, $3.5, $2.65, $2.1 and $1.5, which takes him until the end of the 2022-23 season, at which point the NHL's newest expansion team, the Toronto St. Patricks, will be free to sign him as an unrestricted free agent.
Toews and Kane signed more traditional deals - the first, fourth and fifth years are $6.5 million; the second and third are worth $6 million each.
AROUND THE RINKS
Rumors persist that if the Philadelphia Flyers cannot shake out of a 1-6 slump in the past seven games that John Stevens will become the first coaching casualty of the season. Philadelphia's problem isn't goaltending - Ray Emery and Brian Boucher have been OK. Of late, they can't score - two consecutive shutout defeats, more than 160 minutes played without a goal. Captain Mike Richards called a team meeting after Thursday's loss to the Canucks to discuss how they can make life more difficult for opposing goaltenders. They're probably not missing Lupul in that regard; Mike Knuble might be a different story … Sometimes, those nice early season-success stories have a way of crashing back to earth when the calendar clicks over to December, but that's not happening with the Islanders' Matt Moulson, a 26-year-old who'd played only 29 previous NHL games prior to this season and signed a one-year deal last July for a modest $575,000. Moulson contributed a natural hat trick - the first of his NHL career - to leapfrog John Tavares and move into the team goal-scoring lead with 14 …The Rick DiPietro watch may finally be heading into the home stretch. Limited to only five games last season because of a knee injury that required some creative surgeries, the Islanders' goaltender is scheduled to play Saturday for the first time since this past January on a rehabilitation assignment for the club's AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. DiPietro has been a controversial figure in NHL circles ever since he signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract in September, 2006, opening the floodgates for many similarly structured long-term deals, such as Keith's. If DiPietro's comeback fails, the Islanders can only recoup seven years of their investment in him through insurance. They are on the hook for the rest … Across town, the New York Rangers' $39 million defenceman, Wade Redden, who has been out with a shoulder problem of late, is scheduled to return for tonight's game against Buffalo … With the Great Eight, Alex Ovechkin, suspended until Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals did get his fellow Russian sniper Alexander Semin back Thursday night and he responded with a four-point night in a victory over the Florida Panthers. Semin missed seven games with a sore wrist that may ultimately require surgery.
THE RUSSIANS ARE GOING