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After the Capitals’ Stanley Cup win and Stanley Cup parade, the NHL season, in terms of game action and celebrating is officially over. In the coming days and weeks, teams will begin preparing for the the NHL Entry Draft, Free Agency, and the contract decisions of players (and in the Capitals’ case, a new Head Coach). In Capital Review, NoVa Caps will be taking a look at each player’s season, their contract status, and their outlook for next season, beginning in numerical order based on jersey number. Next up: center Nicklas Backstrom.
Games Played: 81
Once again, the NHL’s most underrated player had another productive season in what was a banner year for the Capitals (both literally and figuratively), recording 71 points in 81 games played; had it not been for a tough start to the season (he had just seven points in 14 games played in November), he would have likely finished with a point per game or very close it. Backstrom’s 21 goals marked his third-ever 20-goal season and his 50 assists marked the EIGHTH season with at least 50 assists, as well being the fifth straight season with 50 or more assists. Backstrom moved into fifth on the Caps’ all-time goals leaders, surpassing Dave Christian, Bengt Gustafsson, and former teammate Alexander Semin, respectively, finishing his 11th season in the NHL with 209 career goals.
While Evgeny Kuznetsov solidified himself as the team’s top-line center, Backstrom still logged heavy minutes for former (and soon-to-be New York Islanders Head Coach) Barry Trotz, averaging 19:40 minutes of ice time a night, and averaging 0:49 seconds a shift, which ranked seventh on the team. Backstrom also excelled at the faceoff dot, winning 51.2% of his draws, good enough for fifth on the team. While he ranked fifth on the team in faceoff win percentage, his 702 wins ranked first on the team. His 71 points ranked third and his 50 assists was fourth on the team. Backstrom continued his productivity in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to the Capitals winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, recording 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 20 games played, averaging 20:37 minutes a night.
Status: Two seasons remaining on 10-year, $67 million contract signed in May 2010 ($6.7 million annual average value)
Money Left on Current Deal: $15.5 million left in total salary/$13.4 million left in annual average value
Free Agent: 2020, Unrestricted
Analysis: Considering the player he has been throughout his career, and the fact he had not yet reached the prime of his career when he signed the contract, Backstrom’s deal is a pure bargain for the Capitals. Since signing the deal at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, Backstrom has recorded 140 goals and 401 assists for 541 points in 569 games played, with a plus-52 rating. Still just 30-years old (31 on November 23), Backstrom should be his usually-productive self throughout the remaining two seasons of his deal and beyond.
As mentioned above, Backstrom climbed the franchise record books and is on the cusp of even more achievements. With another 20-goal season, Backstrom can surpass Mike Ridley (218) for fourth all-time in franchise history in goals, and is just 10 assists from 600, which would extend his lead as the franchise assists leader (the next closest is Alex Ovechkin,) and make him just the 87th player ever in the NHL’s 100-year history to reach the six century mark in helpers. Backstrom is also ONE point shy of 800 for his career, which would make him the third player in Capitals history to reach the mark (behind Ovechkin and Peter Bondra, who finished his Capitals career with 825, a mark Backstrom should surpass next season).
Backstrom has averaged 19 goals, 54 assists, and 73 points in his career and barring any unforeseen obstacles, Backstrom should be expected to reach or exceed those totals next season. While the team’s next Head Coach is not yet known, Backstrom’s role should not be expected to change much, and should once again be centering the second-line.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM HIGHLIGHT OF THE SEASON
By Michael Fleetwood