David Backes and Patrick Marleau are two players who play differently but were in similar situations. Backes, more of a power forward, is under contract with the Boston Bruins for the next 2 years, signing before the 2016-2017 season at 6 million per annum. Marleau, who is more of a sniper, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs the next year before the 2017-2018 season at a shorter length, but with higher annual average value at 6.25 million. One has been traded, one has not, but both present(ed) cap issues for their respective teams.
Patrick Marleau was traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with a conditional first round pick and a seventh round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a sixth round pick. Carolina retained all of Marleau’s salary, and later bought him out. Marleau, now a free agent at 38 years old, is considerably older, and better, than David Backes.
David Backes was signed away from the St. Louis Blues during the 2016 offseason in hopes to get a ring (ironic). Backes signed a 5 year, 30 million dollar contract to join the Bruins. Once a consistent 50-70 point scorer, Backes has definitely found the cliff that Max Kellerman always talks about with Tom Brady. Backes is “a bum, in short order”. As unfortunate as that is for Backes and the Bruins, it has put a stranglehold on Don Sweeney and the moves he can make.
Productive winger Marcus Johansson, acquired from the New Jersey Devils by the Bruins at the trade deadline, is an unrestricted free agent with many suitors. Sweeney has repeatedly stated his caution with bringing back Johansson, and has also stated that he has not even made Johansson an offer. In order to keep Johansson, Backes has to go.
There are multiple ways for Backes to be moved, but only one makes perfect logistical sense. The Bruins could buy Backes out, but that wouldn’t open up enough cap space for the Bruins to really do anything outside of another minor depth move. This is undesirable, because the Bruins are actually still paying defenseman Dennis Seidenberg after buying him out 3 years ago. He could also be moved to the AHL, like former Bruin and current Hartford Wolf Pack winger Matt Beleskey, who, again, the Bruins are still paying. The third, and best option, is trading him. Backes has reportedly handed in his 8 team list, but which teams that includes are unknown.
There are multiple teams that can use their cap space to absorb a contract for the gain of a first round pick. One instantly comes to mind: the Ottawa Senators.
Perhaps the most dysfunctional franchise in the NHL, Ottawa is in dire need of first round picks, and have shipped out stars Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Mike Hoffman in the last year. Since the ill-fated trade for Duchene before the abysmal 2017-2018 season, Ottawa has missed out on Bowen Byram, Shane Bowers, and others. Therefore, the Senators need as many first round picks as they can get. Backes and a first for a later pick might be able to get it done, but if salary retained does occur, look for the Bruins to want more value.
Another team that surprisingly comes up is the Columbus Blue Jackets. After losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency, Columbus scrambled to sign Gustav Nyquist. This leaves Columbus with a lot of cap space. The Blue Jackets are a contender, yes, but look at what Carolina did with Marleau. Boston and Columbus are probably the likeliest trade partners at this stage.
The Philadelphia Flyers are another team with lots of cap, even after taking on the contract of defenseman Matt Niskanen from Washington. Philadelphia has aging veterans in the form of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, who are still producing, but they do not look to be contenders at this point. Backes could slide in easily there for the right price.
I think Backes’ 8 team trade list could resemble something like this:
St. Louis Blues: it’s clear why Backes would add them. Spending many years there certainly helps, but they may be an unlikely partner due to their cap situation.
Minnesota Wild: Backes, a Minnesota native, might want to return home to a rebuilding Minnesota team. But, overpaid veterans Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Mats Zuccarello might prevent that from happening.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus is another good situation for an NHL player. Backes would be joined by Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, and other veterans that are widely known to be team-friendly guys.
Detroit Red Wings: Detroit is another team with a lot of cap room that is situated in a great hockey town, and has a locker room filled with young guys. With only Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall (UFA), and newly signed Valtteri Filppula as veteran presences, Backes might want to help them there.
Dallas Stars: Dallas is a good spot for a player like Backes, with a team filled with veterans. Dallas does not have the cap room for Backes, but it is a desirable situation after signing widely known leader Joe Pavelski and former Anaheim Duck Corey Perry.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins do not have the cap space to add Backes, but Pittsburgh is a widely-sought after spot to play.
Chicago Blackhawks: another hockey town, Chicago is a team that has some cap problems, but Backes would be a fit here, especially after Chicago dealt for Andrew Shaw.
Washington Capitals: Washington is an outstanding fanbase that every player loves to play for. Not too crazy, but still a hardcore group of fans, Washington is a great place to live and play.
Yes, the Bruins do have a dilemma in relation to David Backes. But clearly, not one that is unsolvable. They can use the example set by their biggest current rivals with the Patrick Marleau to get something done.
Photo Credits: Steve Babineau, Getty Images