The Boston Bruins have placed David Backes on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the AHL’s Providence Bruins. The Bruins announced the news shortly after noon on Friday. The 35-year-old signed with the club as an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2016.
Backes has played in just 16 games with the Bruins this season, collecting three points (1 g, 2 a). The former captain of the St. Louis Blues has been relegated to a depth role when he has been in the lineup. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound forward has played 944 career NHL games with the Blues and Bruins. Over the span, he has accumulated 554 points (245 g, 309 a).
Rookie forward Karson Kuhlman was recently recalled from Providence and immediately contributed in his first game back collecting two assists in the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night at TD Garden. The Bruins would like to give youngsters like the 24-year-old Kuhlman and Anton Blidh, also 24, more time in the lineup as they feel they can bring more speed and jump to the lineup. Both Kuhlman and Blidh have been battling injuries all season but with Kuhlman already back and Blidh returning soon, the Bruins decided to make room on the roster by waiving Backes Friday and forward Brett Ritchie earlier in the week.
Following practice Friday, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy explained the collaborative decision made with general manager Don Sweeney and himself to waive the seasoned veteran who is obviously proud and feels he can still play in the NHL.
“We just felt a guy like Kuhly, or maybe Blidh down the road, has more pace to his game to … go that route with David,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said, referring to Karson Kuhlman and Anton Blidh. “So you’ve got a [Charis] Wagner in the lineup that plays that banging role on the fourth line, so he bumps into that, bumped into Ritchie moving to the third line. So there was a little bit of roster competition that we felt the other guys were a little ahead of him.
“So that’s how we best handled it. I know David doesn’t agree with the situation. But that’s a decision we made for the good of the team, and I respect David, like I said, as a person, as a player. We just felt we had better options and that’s how we’re going to go forward, see how it plays out.”
While Backes’ teammates understood the move and the business of the game, it was still hard for them to see a respected veteran and leader in the dressing room get waived.
“Unfortunately that’s the business side of things that is really shitty,” forward Brad Marchand. “He’s been an incredible teammate, can’t say enough good things about him. … He’s going to be missed in this room.”
Backes carries a $6,000,000 cap hit through the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. He is owed $1,000,000 in base salary this season and $3,000,000 during the 2020-21 season. Backes will earn a $1,000,000 signing bonus prior to his final season under contract.
Backes will carry a cap hit of $4,925,000 while in the minors, as per Cap Friendly.
If he clears, Backes will join Ritchie in Providence. Ritchie cleared waivers on Thursday and was assigned to the AHL. Backes last played in the AHL during the 2006-07 season with the Peoria Rivermen. He appeared in 31 games and collected 13 points (10 g, 3 a).
The Bruins also made news this morning when they assigned Dan Vladar to AHL Providence and recalled veteran Max Legace. Legace has yet to make his Bruins debut and was signed on July 1st as an unrestricted free against from the Vegas Golden Knights. Vladar dressed as the backup goaltender in the Bruins 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at TD Garden.