Bruins waive David Backes: On Boston’s tough decision and what might be next for veteran

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The writing might have been on the wall for a while, but it didn’t make the Bruins’ decision any less difficult on Friday afternoon. 

Boston announced that it waived veteran forward David Backes for the purpose of assignment to the Providence Bruins — likely signaling the end of the veteran’s tenure up with the big club. 

Backes, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract with Boston back in the summer of 2016, carried plenty of weight in the B’s locker room as an established voice and former captain of the St. Louis Blues — but it was tough to ignore the downward trend as far as his production on the ice.

In his first three seasons with the Bruins, Backes’ scoring totals dipped from 38 points in 2016-17 to 33 in 2017-18 — culminating in a trying 2018-19 campaign (20 points in 70 GP) in which the forward was scratched for the first time in over a decade, including during Boston’s Game 7 loss to the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.

Determined to keep up with today’s faster and more skill-centric game, Backes spent most of the 2019 offseason working with a skating coach in an effort to help his club. 

But the results simply weren’t there this year for Backes, who only appeared in 16 games before Friday’s news. On the ice, Backes tallied one goal and posted three total points — while averaging just 8:33 of ice time per game.

As younger players like Karson Kuhlman, Anton Blidh and others continue to work themselves back into the lineup, a decision on Backes’ future in Boston seemed inevitable, but that didn’t make Friday’s news any easier of a pill to swallow for many in the B’s locker room. 

“It’s tough. I feel bad for him,” Brad Marchand said of Backes. “He’s been such a great teammate and a great friend and he’s had such a great career. This is the part of the business that really sucks, when you get into the numbers game and get into situations like this. You don’t ever want to see a guy like treated in this kind of way, especially a guy that’s put his time in and earned his stripes and has been such a great player in this league for a long time. 

“Again, unfortunately, that’s the business side of things that is really shitty. He’s been an incredible teammate, can’t say enough good things about him. He’s just such a great person, a great friend and he’s going to be missed in this room. We relied on him a lot, on and off the ice and he carried a lot of weight with the guys. We’re going to miss him here, no question. But we wish him all the best.”

So where exactly do both parties go from here?