By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Two years into a largely immovable five-year, $30 million pact with David Backes, it appears that the Boston Bruins want out.
Darren Dreger provided the first insight to this idea last week, saying that the Bruins "would like" to move the 34-year-old winger, who has three years at $6 million per year left on his contract in Boston. Andy Strickland, based out of St. Louis and tuned in throughout the league, especially in regards to Blues past and present, then added to the 'speculation.'
The apparent hope to move on from Backes comes with limited effectiveness from the gritty winger during his two seasons in Boston. With 31 goals and 71 points in 131 games in town, Backes' 0.54 points per game rank as the ninth-most among Boston skaters with at least 70 games played over that span. It's also a considerable dip from the Minnesota-born forward's final three years in St. Louis, which saw him contribute 74 goals and 160 points in 233 games (0.69 points per game).
This dip in production has come as a result of Backes' inability to find chemistry with David Krejci on Boston's second line and not being an optimal fit on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. That's left Backes to excel in a bottom-six role. To his credit, Backes has been able to do that, forming a regular-season fit with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash on the third line, but by the end of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Backes' usage was more along the lines of a fourth-liner.
It's hard to imagine Backes breaking out of that, especially if the Bruins continue to get younger on their third and fourth lines.
Health has also been an issue for Backes during his time with the Black and Gold. Backes was limited to just 57 games due to a surgical procedure to remove part of his colon on Nov. 2 after a bout with diverticulitis, and was then taken out of action again in March when a skate lacerated his leg in Tampa Bay, leaving him with a gruesome and deep cut. The injury problems continued in the postseason, too, with a concussion sustained in Game 5 of the B's second-round series loss to the Lightning.
It's left the Bruins in a rather uncomfortable spot when it comes to projecting Backes' future role with the team.
Admitting that he merely hopes that Backes can be healthy, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney acknowledged the situation.
"[Backes] went through a pretty difficult year," Sweeney back said in May. "I don’t know if a lot of players are going to play through some of the things David went through this year. It speaks to his character. It’s a big reason why we went out and got him and to what he was going to offload at times from other players on our hockey club that we all speak about from a core standpoint and the impact they make from a leadership standpoint. It’s a lot to lump on players individually to carry that burden. I think David’s done a really good job of coming in and helping in that regard and spreading it around.
"From a pure production standpoint, a little bit is determined where he plays in the lineup. Nothing against Bruce [Cassidy], but he’s putting together the lineup and did a really good job this year. We played him on the power play. His offense comes in spurts probably more so than what he used to from a volume standpoint. He’s also playing with younger players at times that’s he’s helping on and off the ice. I think we looked at Backes as providing balance in our locker room, on the ice, not just from a pure production standpoint. Do I hope he becomes a 20-50 guy again? Yeah, I absolutely do. That’s up to him. He hasn’t the last two years, but at times, if he was healthy, he was trending in that way, but a little bit depends on the usage piece."
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they are not the only team reportedly trying to unload a player with a similarly hard-nosed style; The Oilers are trying to trade Milan Lucic, and the Flyers are reportedly interested in shopping Wayne Simmonds.
Backes, of course, possesses a full no-movement clause this upcoming season. His contract does come with a modified no-trade clause in 2019-20, with an eight-team list, which then has to expand to 15 teams the following season.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.