David Backes officially is in limbo.
The Boston Bruins put the veteran forward on waivers nearly two weeks ago with the intent of sending him to Providence of the AHL. Backes unsurprisingly went unclaimed, and given his nature as a respected veteran, the team said it would give him through last weekend’s All-Star break to decide whether he’d report to Providence.
Backes hasn’t appeared in Providence yet, and a statement from general manager Don Sweeney on Thursday added a little more context to the situation. Sweeney announced all sides came to an agreement that Backes wouldn’t be heading to Providence.
“After speaking with David, we have agreed that it is in the best interest of David and the Bruins for him not to play in Providence at this time,” Sweeney said in the statement released by the team. “David is fit and able to play, but in order to preserve all potential options for both David and the Bruins moving forward, we have decided this is the best course of action.”
In reality, there weren’t many options for Backes or the Bruins. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said when the Bruins placed the veteran on waivers that they were in a tricky spot. Backes wasn’t playing well to merit being in the lineup over other players, and if he was in the lineup, it would have been in an enforcer-like role.
Backes’ history of concussions, though, put the team in a position where it didn’t feel comfortable running him out there to play that brand of hockey. And had he gone to Providence, it’s easy to see Backes playing a similar role.
The other option for Backes was retirement. It’s hard to blame him for not going that route, either, as he’d be walking away from what’s left of the $3 million he’s owed this year as well as $3 million next season and an extra $1 million from a signing bonus he’s set to get this summer.
So now it’s a waiting game. The NHL trade deadline is in late February, so the Bruins could look into dealing Backes, but he has a limited no-trade clause. Even without that clause, it’s hard to see a huge market for a player in the aforementioned situation.