Both David Backes and the St. Louis Blues are saying all the right things about avoiding a trade and getting a deal done, although there’s some doubt undercutting certain comments.
Yes, GM Doug Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that trading his captain would be the “least likely scenario,” noting that a “first-round pick does us no good when we’re going to this year’s playoffs.”
Still, he also ends that comment with an important disclaimer: “We’ve got now until March to find out where we’re at.”
March stands out since, you know, the trade deadline is on Feb. 29.
Is that Armstrong’s way of saying “We need to get him re-signed by the trade deadline” or is it more about mapping out a gameplan?
That’s a key consideration, as Backes’ rep Wade Arnott said that the two sides weren’t close to a deal last summer. Everyone’s talking about “business,” sanitizing the painful truth that something has to happen one way or another.
This brings up plenty of questions, including: what really is a reasonable price for Backes, who’s been a bargain at his $4.5 million cap hit, and may want max money and term after being a steal for all these years?
Backes is currently 31, and will turn 32 in May. One has to wonder about the wear and tear he’s accumulated as he enters his 700th game, considering his physical, agitating style.
The Blues’ overall salary structure doesn’t make the choice much easier.
On one hand, this team is clearly built to win now. Key players such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Alexander Steen (not to mention goalies Brian Elliott and Jake Allen) only have a year or two reamining on their contracts, and it’s conceivable that they all will demand signiicant raises.
Chances are, someone needs to go, and it would be easier to sell Backes as a “rental” now rather than trying to unload a tougher contract like Paul Stastny ($7 million per season through 2017-18) or Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4 million through 2018-19).
It’s not an easy choice by any means, and a lot of this revolves around how far the Blues truly expect to go.
So, how should the Blues handle this situation?