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MONTREAL, QC – DECEMBER 12: David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins skates during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on December 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

After going unclaimed on waivers and mutually agreeing that an AHL run was not in the cards, David Backes and the Bruins are in the unenviable “what’s next?” phase of their partnership.

“David’s preference is obviously to be playing in the National Hockey League,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said on Friday. “He still believes he can play, he’s fit to play, but at this time we’re not going to have him play.

“We’re going to see what options we may have between now and the deadline and certainly moving forward.”

Based on Sweeney’s comments, it would appear that the Bruins are going to search high and low for a potential trade partner for the 35-year-old Backes, who is on the hook with a $6 million cap hit for the remainder of this season and next. Keep in mind that the entire league had a chance to pick that contract up for nothing via the waiver wire earlier this month and didn’t, so the odds of that happening straight-up likely sit somewhere between no and never.

So if a deal does materialize between now and the Feb. 24, it’s going to have to include sweeteners (the Maple Leafs traded a first-round pick to get rid of the Patrick Marleau contract last summer) or be attached to the package of a deadline deal.

The Bruins have experience with the second approach, as they stapled Matt Beleskey’s contract to the five-piece package sent to the Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash back in 2018. The Bruins retained half of Beleskey’s $3.8 million cap hit in that trade, too, which made it slightly more palatable for a New York squad that’s dressed Beleskey for a grand total of five NHL games (he’s played 106 games for AHL Hartford) since acquiring him from Boston.

That Beleskey-esque exit strategy seems like the most likely desired outcome for the Bruins this time around.

So long as they can stomach eating at most half of Backes’ remaining money (it’d be $3 million in dead cap through next season), which the Bruins would certainly have to be OK with at this stage of the process, as it’d create more cap space than the million gained by burying Backes in the minors (in roster status only). And so long as Backes can stomach waiving his modified no-trade clause to get out of Boston. That no-trade is key here, too, because while Backes has made it clear that he wants to remain with the B’s, he sounds willing to move if it means getting a shot to show that he can still play in the NHL.

It’s not that he wants a trade per se, but rather he would like “a different opportunity” if it’s not going to be with Boston.

“His primary focus would be to re-establish himself here,” said Sweeney. “It’s always been that, that’s why he signed here. But at this stage, we have roster issues. We felt we had other players that would go in and play a role.

“I think he would prefer not to [report to Providence] at this stage and see whether or not he could possibly get back on our roster or somewhere else.”

So, quick math here says that that opportunity is not coming in Boston. Not now, and maybe not ever again.

And if it’s not coming in Boston — or in Providence for that matter — it’s going to have to come somewhere else.

Making the “what’s next?” more of a “where’s next?” for all involved.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.