By far the highest-profile free agent of the seven the Boston Bruins signed Friday was David Backes, who comes to New England on the heels of a successful 10-year stint with the St. Louis Blues.
Backes joined reporters on a conference call shortly after his signing became official. Here are some highlights from that call:
— Backes signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins — a deal that could be viewed as a bit lengthy for a 32-year-old who’s known for playing a heavy, physical game.
The veteran forward tried to allay those fears, stressing that he knows how to smartly employ his physicality rather than “just hitting everything that moves like it’s a rugby match.”
“I’m 32,” he said. “I’m not 52. I think there’s plenty of legs and plenty of physicality and energy left in me. And the term (of the contract) has been something that maybe a few people have questioned, but for me, I expect to still be at the top of my game for that last year and be a contributing member for the Boston Bruins and training differences, being able to really take care of my body, listening to it and just give everything I’ve got. I think that’s the way I’m going about it, and I would expect to be really good in that fifth year still.”
— Speaking of physicality, the Bruins’ reputation as a hard team to play against was one of the things that attracted Backes to Boston, as was his assessment that the B’s are determined to win now and built to do so.
“From my time playing against Boston and the history of the team, it’s a blue-collar, hard-nosed, don’t-take-crap-from-anybody type of team, and that’s the way that I feel I’ve built my game in 10 years in the league,” he said. “And I think that it should be a seamless fit to fill the few holes or deficiencies that, through the interview process, were identified, and continue to be strengths of mine in all facets of the game — five-on-five, power play, penalty kill.
“It just seemed like an awesome fit hockey-wise, and the more I learn about the New England area and what Boston has to offer for a city from a family-living standpoint, the family life seemed to be a match made in heaven, as well.”
— Backes is listed as a center, and he said he believes that will be his primary position as he begins his Bruins tenure. He seemed particularly intrigued by idea of himself, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci forming a devastating 1-2-3 combo down the middle, no matter who centers which line.
“If you want to call me third line, I completely respect that,” Backes said. “Those other two guys (Bergeron and Krejci) are awesome. But I imagine we’re going to share a lot of responsibility and not burden one guy with all of the hard ice or the heavy lifting, when we have responsible guys that can share those roles. Then we can all flourish on the other side of the ice and have tons of energy still left for ends of games to close it out or to score a late big goal, or over the course of a tough 82-game season, to have plenty of gas in the tank at the end of the year to make a push to the playoffs and be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs.”
Backes also has played right wing in the past, however, a position the Bruins aren’t nearly as deep at. Asked whether he’d be willing to shift to the wing, Backes said he will do whatever is asked of him.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m into winning games, so if (Bruins coach Claude Julien) thinks that we’re going to win more games with me playing wing, then I’m in. If he thinks that we’re going to win more games with me playing center, I’m in. Whatever he thinks, I’ll do it to the best of my ability. ”
— As a player who’d spent his entire career with one team, Backes said he doesn’t have any personal relationships with any current Bruins players. He did offer some high praise for Bergeron, though, who was part of the group that helped sell him on the idea of signing with Boston.
“I can maybe flatter a little bit now that he’s my teammate, but I hate giving players credit, giving them any edge, when I’m playing against them,” Backes said. “But he’s a guy you were pissed at by the end of the game, because he never made a mistake. That’s a good way to be successful defensively and then, by the end of the game, he typically was producing something (on the) offensive side of the score sheet, too — just a guy that you can’t take a shift off (against), because he’s going to make you pay.”
Backes also noted that before he suits up in a game for the Bruins, he’ll square off against several of his new teammates, including Bergeron, in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey this September. Backes, a Minnesota native, will play for Team USA.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images