It will take a few more days before we begin to get some clarity on David Backes’ future — both with the Bruins and the NHL in general.
When the news broke last week that the Bruins opted to waive the veteran forward for the purpose of assignment to Providence, we discussed the multiple routes that Backes could take in the days ahead.
Remaining in Providence for the rest of the 2019-20 campaign would seem to be the worst-case scenario for all parties. With his extensive history with concussions, Backes shouldn’t be regularly scrapping with goons down in the AHL ranks, while the Bruins are only saving a little over $1 million in cap space by demoting Backes down to the Baby B’s.
The best-case scenario for the Bruins (and given his health, probably Backes as well) would be for Backes to hang up his skates and retire. Not only would it put the forward’s health first, but it would hand Boston a stimulus package of cap relief. Given that Backes did not sign his contract with Boston before he turned 35, Boston would not have to face a recapture penalty if the winger did retire — freeing up $6 million in cap space next season.
However, that decision is ultimately up to Backes. And based on Elliotte Friedman’s weekly “31 Thoughts” notebook, it doesn’t look as though retirement is currently on the table.
So, what’s next? Perhaps Backes plays through the remainder of this season, and Boston buys out the final year of his contract this summer. But if Backes still wants another crack at the NHL in short order, maybe a trade could be struck before the Feb. 24 deadline?
It’s not necessarily a position that Don Sweeney and the Bruins want to be in, given that Boston’s GM would likely want to divert more resources into acquiring outside help this winter — rather than find an off-taker for Backes’ contract.
The number of teams willing to take on Backes’ contract has also shrunk since this past offseason, with only a choice few teams likely willing to take on some of that cap hit — even if they’d get picks and prospects as sweeteners from the Bruins.
It might be a tall task for Sweeney to pull off such a deal this season — but there are a few potential suitors for the Bruins to consider.