David Backes simply isn’t producing at the NHL level anymore, and he won’t be doing so in the AHL apparently either.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy first said a couple weeks ago that the 35-year-old Backes would not be reporting to Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence until after All-Star weekend and the Bruins’ bye week. It turns out Backes won’t be reporting at all. Period.
B’s GM Don Sweeney released a statement through the team’s website on Thursday:
“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. 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.”
It was “confirmed” that “both sides” were on the “same page” and that Backes, despite being healthy, won’t be playing in the AHL right now, even after being waived by Boston earlier this month.
To translate, the Bruins want to bury Backes in the AHL, and Backes, vet-card fully in hand, said “Naw, I’m good.”
Backes and the Bruins agreed to a polarizing five-year, $30-million deal in July of 2016. That contract, however, almost immediately turned into one of the NHL’s worst, as Backes posted just 38 points in Year 1 of the deal, 33 points in Year 2, and just 20 points in 70 games last season.
His skills (notably his skating ability), his production, and even his health has declined rapidly since he inked with the Bruins, and his contract still has another year-and-a-half left with a $6-million cap hit — hardly ideal for a Cup contending squad desperate for some salary flexibility down the stretch.
Backes likely won’t find himself in the Bruins’ lineup anytime soon. He won’t be reporting to Providence. He’s not retiring, and a suspension from the club for not reporting to the AHL is looking unlikely, as it appears “the Bruins are giving [Backes] some space without consequences after waiving him for ineffective play,” according to NBC Bruins reporter Joe Haggerty.
So, what are the options here, for player and team? Not a whole lot.
It feels like the Bruins are fine with letting Backes sit as to not risk an injury prior the Feb. 24 trade deadline. They’re clearly looking to move the veteran centre — and Backes, one would assume, would surely welcome the fresh scenery— but it’s going to take finding a trade partner to take an oft-injured, rapidly declining player, and will likely cost the Bruins fairly heavily in retained salary and assets just to offload the struggling Backes.
This, my friends, is where NHL GM’s earn their keep.
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