It’s been a few weeks since I could talk about the Caps and not be near tears, but locking up one of the league’s premier pivots for the next decade has cured my case of the Mondays. There exists a school of thought that Backstrom would be ordinary were he not centering Ovechkin, but March 14th against the Blackhawks he was clearly the best player on the ice once Ovechkin was ejected for boarding Brian Campbell. A goal and an assist in the third, and a gorgeous game winner where he undressed Seabrook in OT.
So what are Backstrom’s totals this year without Ovechkin? The captain missed ten games – in those games Backstrom went 3-11-14 0. Including the game against Chicago, Ovechkin got less than ten minutes of ice time in three games this season. In those games, Backstrom went 5-2-7 +1. Combined: 13 GP, 8 G, 13 A, 21 P, +1. These numbers don’t tell the whole story – the attention paid Ovechkin defensively makes things easier on everyone, and you’d rather have him on your line than not – but it supports the argument that Backstrom would have had around the same point total if he centered, say, Semin and Laich.
So where does Backstrom rank among NHL forwards? I’ve got a tough time saying that Backstrom is better than Henrik Sedin right now, but if you had to pick one or the other for the next decade, I’m confident nearly every GM in the league would take Backstrom. Taking it to the next step, outside of Crosby and Ovechkin, who would be more valuable than Backstrom over the course of a 10 year deal? I’d say Stamkos and probably Malkin.
After Ovie, Crosby, and Malkin, Backstrom was the league’s most productive player in his first three years since the lockout. If Backstrom had waited for an offer sheet I think it’s likely he would have gotten more than $7.5 million a year on a deal of whatever length he preferred. He’s far more accomplished than potential restricted free agents who have recently signed extensions in $5-7 million yearly range. which include the next five most productive forwards in their first three seasons after the lockout and Mike Richards. The only guy in any of these lists that made it to restricted free agency is Thomas Vanek, the league’s 10th highest scorer in his first three seasons since the lockout. Edmonton signed him to a 7 year, $50 million offer sheet, basically signaling the end of reasonable second contracts. Or he could have signed a shorter deal and been an unrestricted free agent in a hopefully stronger economy.
Kudos to Backstrom for not squeezing every dollar he could out of this deal so Washington can resign their restricted free agents and address their biggest need: a second line center. They’ve got over $13 million in cap room, and from what I’ve heard their RFA most likely to sign an offer sheet is Eric Fehr.
About the Author
Written by Ryan Cleaver
Ryan Cleaver was born in Björk’s house in Iceland and grew up on Easter Island, where his parents were giant stone heads. He has the ability to fire beams of tacos out of his hands and he can turn his legs into tigers. On Sundays, Ryan enjoys reading Family Circus and traveling through time. His favorite color is greenish-transparent and his favorite movie is the one you just watched.