Saying David Backes probably wasn’t happy with how this season ended, from both a team and personal perspective, isn’t exactly going out on a limb.
The veteran forward was relegated to a healthy scratch role in the final three games of the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup Final loss to the St. Louis Blues, a tough pill to swallow for a guy who’s put together a great career.
The 35-year-old still has two years remaining on his contract which carries a $6 million average annual value, and that’s led to plenty of speculation about Backes being traded or bought out, something he himself has acknowledged he’s aware of.
During his end-of-the-year press conference Monday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney wouldn’t directly acknowledge if he had or hadn’t discussed moving Backes in some capacity, but he did shed some light on the forward’s future role with the team.
“I don’t think any of our seasons ended the way we liked, to be honest with you. I think that we had a tremendous run. He was a big part of that, reinserted back in in Game 2 against Toronto where he elevated our physical play,” Sweeney said, via a team-provided transcript. “You know, was a big part of our hockey club, on and off the ice. So, where it fits going forward, he’s a part of our hockey club. I have discussions on different players. He may or may not be a part of that, but for the most part, he’s a part of our hockey club. His impact is again up to Bruce (Cassidy) and up to David in terms of, from a production standpoint, he might be referencing that or from a leadership standpoint we know what he brings, and I think there’s value there.
“I’ve always said it’s best – without knowing what our roster’s going to look like — going into September I’ll have a good idea obviously, but until it’s finalized, you know, where his competition will come from. I thought he best fit in with (Sean) Kuraly- (Noel) Acciari – (Joakim) Nordstrom, in that type of role. At the end of the day, when (Chris) Wagner, Acciari were all healthy, there was competition for those spots, so sometimes he was in there, sometimes he wasn’t. So, that’s where I see his best contribution to the team. At times he can move up in the lineup and give you some grit, a net-front presence, but in general, that’s where he played his best hockey for us. So, we’ll have to see how it all shakes out. Like I said, who else is in there, in that role, that he’ll have to be out for a minute.”
Unfortunately for Backes, hockey increasingly is becoming a young man’s game, where speed almost always prevails, and the bottom sixers Sweeney mentioned all have Backes beat in that regard. Acciari is set to become an unrestricted free agent, so if he departs, it could open up a spot for Backes to become a lineup mainstay again. That said, the Bruins also have plenty of young talent who would compete for that role as well.
Backes is a true professional, though, so if he finds himself with Boston next season, it’s safe to assume he’ll try to make the best of whatever role he’s given.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images