Capitals’ Wilson, Backstrom Won’t Travel To Columbus, But Both “Pretty Close” To Returning Together

Head coach Peter Laviolette announced after Wednesday’s optional practice that both right-wing Tom Wilson and center Nicklas Backstrom will not accompany the Washington Capitals for their game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday (7 PM ET, ESPN) but both are “pretty close” to making their season debuts.

Backstrom, 35, has been practicing with Washington since before Thanksgiving after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in Belgium on June 2. He missed five days after getting placed on COVID-19 protocol but that is not expected to delay his season debut, according to Laviolette.

After being absent for the first 28 games of last season with the injured hip and returning for one game, Backstrom landed on COVID-19 protocol and missed the next two.

Wilson, 28, joined Washington for practice in mid-December after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL on May 25. He sustained the injury after playing just 1:31 in Game 1 of Washington’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Florida Panthers on May 1. Wilson has not played since.

The return of two of their biggest contributors should give Washington, who is 14-3-3 in their past 20 games to climb in the thick of the Eastern Conference postseason race, a major boost. The challenge for the team will be to decide who Wilson and Backstrom will replace in an already deep forward group, which has averaged 3.28 goals-per-game (tied for 11th in the NHL) and clicked at a 21.7% efficiency on the power play (17th), with the team on a roll.

Backstrom finished last season with six goals and 31 points in 47 games a year after leading Washington in scoring. He also turned in four assists and six points in six postseason outings.

Wilson set career-highs in goals (24), assists (28), and points (52) in 78 games in 2021-22. He scored a power-play goal in his short postseason stint last Spring.

Washington, who concludes a set of back-to-back games vs. the Nashville Predators on Friday, is tied with the New York Rangers (who have a game in hand) for third place in the Metropolitan Division entering Wednesday.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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11 Responses to Capitals’ Wilson, Backstrom Won’t Travel To Columbus, But Both “Pretty Close” To Returning Together

  1. Anonymous says:

    The 2 forwards to sit out on Wilson & Backstrom’s return is easy – Mantha & Protas

  2. Anonymous says:

    How do you fit $14 million into the salary cap?

  3. CapsFanInWinstonSalem says:

    Protas goes to Hershey, NAK gets cut? But who sits other than Snively??

  4. Caps likely to shop Mantha and Eller to make room for Backstrom & Willie for future draft choices/prospects. That, plus Carlson and his $8 mil being out on LTR should create enough cap space.

    • CapsFanInWinstonSalem says:

      I don’t buy it. Eller may be aging and a ufa at the end of the season, but he’s been playing well and is trusted by HCPL. And nobody is going to pick up Mantha’s salary with the major cap restrictions currently in the league. For us to deal Mantha, he’d need to racking up points, and he isn’t. The only way he’s getting dealt is for us to eat salary, and that doesn’t solve the problem. I like the guy. He hasn’t been the premier talent we thought he’d be since coming back from his shoulder injury, but he hasn’t been the dumpster fire we collectively have made him out to be.

      • James W Lewis says:

        I agree, Caps. I see a lot of value in Mantha (speed and strength) – more value than we’ll see from Backy, I’m afraid – who was a sublime player (my favorite), but who can’t at his age and conditioning be a real impact player anymore. And Eller has had a fine year. We’re not a playoff team because of Backy and Wilson; don’t be so quick to rearrange this team. Carlson’s injury and $8M cap reduction does help a lot. And you’re right again – dumping Mantha for Nick just sells low on a player that will improve every year in favor of one going the other direction. Don’t hate me – I LOVE Nick Backstrom, but I doubt his value to the team ($9M0.

  5. dwgie26 says:

    I ran several CapFriendly models tonight.

    1. With today’s roster we have a little over 6M in Cap Space
    2. With Backstrom back and JC74 moving to LTIR we have over 7M in Cap Space
    3. If we activated all of them (Backstrom, Wilson, JC74) today, we would only be 100k over the Cap.

    Cap hits accrue daily which is why the numbers work out. JC74 will be on LTIR for at least 15 games (roughly a month) so by the time he comes back we will have more than enough space to handle all of these contracts. NAK is 200k more than Snively and some think that matters. it does not. He could make 2M/year and he would still fit. I’d much rather have NAK than Snively given right stick and a bit more feisty and versatile. His xGF% was highest on team in December. Fine with Protas going to play and develop different (offensive) skills in Hershey until the playoffs.

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