If the Boston Bruins wanted or want David Backes to waive the modified no-trade clause that allows him to only approve a trade to a list of eight teams, then they haven’t let him know yet.
“I was not,” Backes replied when asked if the Bruins asked him to waive it and approve a trade to a team not on the list. “I mean, you know my contract as well as I do. There’s an eight-team trade list that’s been submitted and those decisions are out of my control. I’m gonna be here and I love being here and I love the guys here, and it’s a great group.”
Backes – who submitted that list to general manager Don Sweeney before leaving for the offseason in June – has been the constant subject of trade rumors since the 2019 NHL trade deadline thanks to his $6 million cap hit this season and next, and his declining play on the ice. The Bruins are in a salary cap pickled with just $7.2 million in cap space and restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo still unsigned. They’d also like to potentially extend defenseman Torey Krug, who can become an unrestricted free agent next July 1, but simply can’t do so given their cap situation.
Given all those factors, Backes was asked if he was surprised to be facing the Boston media horde and not in another city with a new team as training camp began?
“I figured I’d be talking to you guys more than I want,” Backes joked. “Again, those are decisions that are out of my control, so I let them be made by whoever’s control they are in, and I know that I need to be a functional athlete to do what I do, and that’s playing on the ice and contribute to winning hockey, and we’ve done a pretty good job of that and I want to continue that this year.”
Backes, 35, finished the 2018-19 regular season with seven goals and 20 assists in 70 games and then had two goals and three assists in 15 playoff games. While his speed and level of play has not been where he wants it to be, Backes still provided leadership, physicality and some other intangibles that become more valuable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s why he and plenty of others were quite surprised when Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy chose the younger and inexperienced 23-year-old rookie Karson Kuhlman over the experienced Backes in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last June?
Cassidy told the media Thursday that after the dust had settled from the heartbreaking loss in Game 7, he did eventually discuss the controversial decision with the proud veteran forward.
“We had a conversation this summer, a little bit about how the year ended,” Cassidy said. “I don’t think we wanted to do it two days after Game 7, I think we were all a little bit raw for obvious reasons. We talked a little bit about my decision. I don’t want to get into it all, I think I’ve told you, I was asked then at the time. I put Karson Kuhlman in, I thought it added a little bit more pep to our game and a different element than David, right or wrong.”
Cassidy and Backes also spoke about what Backes can do to earn more playing time in what has become an even more crowded right wing depth chart in the bottom six group of forwards.
“Then we talked and revisited a little bit of what he could do to stay in the lineup this year, and what’s ahead,” Cassidy said. “It’s hard to predict what’s ahead. We added some new bodies – [Par] Lindholm and [Brett] Ritchie – they’re all players that are going to compete. Ritchie plays the same position as Backes, we’ll see what kind of advances Kuhlman’s made.
So the message to David was essentially that there’s competition on that side of the ice, but if he gets back to the level that we assume he can get to, then he’ll have a spot, but how much minutes, again that’s gonna depend on growth of some players and the chemistry involved. Then, what do we do with Charlie Coyle, does he go to the right side? Then it gets even more gummy. So, some of that’s going to play itself out here in the next two weeks.”
When Bruins players cleaned out their lockers after Game 7of the Cup Final last June, Backed admitted he was frustrated that he wasn’t able to be in the lineup more and specifically in Game 7. Over the summer, he did his best to let that frustration turn to motivation/
“I channeled some of it, festered some of it away and let it motivate me,” Backes said. “I need to focus myself too on knowing what I can do as an athlete and having a great summer so I can do what I do best and that’s play the game. Not worry about other decisions that I don’t get to make, that’s out of my control. What’s in my control is each shift, each play, each moment, and that’s what I’m going to focus on all year, starting with this right now. Starting with the training, the testing this morning and we’ll roll into the first drill in practice tomorrow. That’s my focus, that moment, that drill and the decisions out of my control will be made.”