Backes’ Time in Boston About So Much More Than Points

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators - Game Five

(Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

It may be fitting that the image of David Backes that many Bruins fans have emblazoned on their memories was actually a highlight in another player’s young career. That moment came on April 21, 2017, when veteran leader Backes gave Sean Kuraly a “noogie” on the Bruins bench in celebration of one of the rookie forward’s two goals that helped keep the team’s playoff hopes alive in an elimination game against the Ottawa Senators.

The former captain of the St. Louis Blues, Backes’ future with the Bruins seemed as of Friday’s breakup day to be very much in question. However, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in a Monday morning press conference that there may well be a role for Backes on the team for the 2019-2020 season.

After putting up just 20 points in 70 games in the 2018-2019 season, a drop from a 33-point performance in just 57 games in a 2017-2018 season that saw the veteran forward miss time as a result of needing surgery to remove part of his intestines, suffering a laceration from a skate to the back of the leg and concussion issues, Backes himself said Friday that he knows his future is “in-flux.”

The end of the 35-year-old alternate captain’s 2019 Stanley Cup campaign was a difficult one. Backes sat watching from the press box as a healthy scratch for the final games of the series. Coach Bruce Cassidy opted to take Backes out of game five of the Stanley Cup Finals to allow an 11-forward, seven-defenseman lineup to boost a banged-up defensive corps. The final two games of the series, Backes sat in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman. As a result, Backes was forced to sit and watch the Bruins lose in game seven to his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

With Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson all becoming free agents and a potential Torey Krug contract extension looming, the Bruins front office is faced this summer with the difficult task of trying to find a way to hold onto as many of those key young contributors as possible. Given his declining production and advancing age, it would make sense for the Bruins to try to rid themselves of some or all of Backes’ remaining contract. However, those same factors make it difficult to move him.

Backes signed a five-year contract with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016. He has two years left and a $6 million per-year cap hit left on that deal. Talk of possible buyouts and trades has been swirling all year, but it remains to be seen what Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could do in regards to Backes to free up some space.

Although his future is in limbo, there is no question that Backes is a team leader who is respected and admired by his teammates. He has also proved to be a valuable mentor to the team’s future stars. Backes has assumed a leadership role from the day he arrived in Boston.

Even with myriad health and injury issues and a drop in playing time, Backes embraced every role he was asked to play in the team’s 2019 playoff run, and before. Backes worked to drop some weight ahead of the 2018-2019 season in an effort to keep up with a trend that favors speed over the heavier power-forward role that was prevalent when Backes broke into the National Hockey League. He was also an integral part of a second line that helped to combat the physical play of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.

It looks as though Bruins fans may not have seen the last of David Backes donning the Spoked B. If that proves true, it is good news for a team that can use number 42’s leadership, experience, and never-say-die attitude to guide a young group of still-developing stars.

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