The Washington Capitals face big questions about their future, but Nicklas Backstrom will remain a part of it. The Capitals were able to sign Backstrom to a five-year, $46 million contract extension on Tuesday.
Backstrom, 32, will see that $9.2M AAV kick in starting in 2020-21, and then expire after 2024-25. Interestingly, Evgeny Kuznetsov ($7.8M cap hit) and T.J. Oshie ($5.75M) also see their deals expire after that 2024-25 campaign.
Apparently Backstrom negotiated his own contract, focusing on getting top dollar, while the Caps wanted to account for his age:
$9.2 M AAV, Backstrom negotiated the deal by himself. The key for the team is the term. The key for the player is he still gets paid top dollar, a nice raise from the $6.7 M AAV he made on his expiring 10-year contract. https://t.co/b3gFAcNuSt
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) January 14, 2020
Backstrom has ranked as one of the NHL’s more underappreciated stars for years. The Capitals note that he leads the franchise in assists (668) and is also the only active player to generate 50+ assists in six consecutive seasons. Backstrom ranks second in franchise history in points (908), second only to Alex Ovechkin (1,255).
A quick cap outlook after Capitals sign Backstrom
Going truly deep on the Capitals’ future decisions is probably the job for a full post, but we can take a quick peek.
Cap Friendly places Washington’s cap spending at about $71.1M on 16 roster spots heading into 2020-21. If the ceiling remains around $81.5M, that would leave the Caps with about $10.4M in space.
11.3% : That is the percentage of the salary cap upper limit (81.5M) for Backstrom's $9.2M AAV extension signed today
This is identical to his previous 10 year contract he signed on May 17, 2010 ($6.7M AAV) when the upper limit was $59.4M https://t.co/cFShlhXSv5
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 14, 2020
Such comments serve as a reminder that the Capitals face other tough decisions, both soon and off in the distance.
Most pressingly, Braden Holtby (30, current cap hit: $6.1M) needs a new contract after this season. Ilya Samsonov may or may not be the future. If the Capitals find some way to sign Holtby, it would probably require making painful omissions elsewhere.
The Capitals also must determine what Alex Ovechkin’s next contract will look like. The 34-year-old’s $9.538M cap hit runs out after 2020-21.
It will be fascinating to see how Backstrom ages. His smart, borderline Selke-worthy style may grow old quite gracefully. Still, it’s kind of startling to realize that he’s 32 already. Some old folks might take that as a reminder of our (er, their!) mortality.
Did the Capitals make the right call with this hefty extension? Did Backstrom make a mistake by haggling on his own? What should the Caps do with Holtby and others?
With the Capitals running rampant over the league and not that far removed from that glorious Stanley Cup, extending Backstrom certainly feels like a crowd-pleaser right now, at least. Frankly, the slick Swede was so underpaid before, it also seems fair.