The Capitals have some potentially franchise-altering decisions coming up on the horizon.
First up is starting netminder Braden Holtby, who’s set to enter unrestricted free agency at the end of this season. Then captain Alex Ovechkin, one of the biggest question marks in the game as his current deal only runs until the end of next season.
How both of those situations turn out, and ultimately affect the club’s future, remains to be seen, but GM Brian MacLellan dodged one bullet at least, with pivot Nicklas Backstrom recently inking a five-year deal that keeps him in a Capitals uniform through to 2024-25.
And it appears the process by which the deal came to fruition was fairly painless, even with the veteran playmaker opting to negotiate the new contract himself.
“I just felt like I wanted to do it myself,” Backstrom told Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central crew on Wednesday. “I’m interested in this and I wanted to sit down face to face and see what (Brian) thought. It’s always easier to read each other then, I think. It worked out well — we had a great, honest conversation.”
Playing out the final year of a 10-year deal that paid him $6.7 million per year, Backstrom’s new pact will carry a $9.2-million cap it, with a no-move clause for three years and a modified no-trade for the final two, according to CapFriendly.
“I looked around obviously on different players contracts, but I’m going to be honest with you guys, I had no paperwork to bring in the meeting,” Backstrom said. “I was just telling him, ‘Let’s just sit down and make a deal.’ After a couple meetings back and forth with details of the no-move and signing bonus and stuff, we got it done.”
With a 100-point campaign on his resumé, and seven others above the 70-point plateau, there’s no question Backstrom would’ve had plenty of suitors had he opted to open the door to other clubs. But both he and the Capitals were intent on remaining together moving forward, the 32-year-old said.
That mutual interest allowed for a quick turnaround in regards to the negotiation process.
“It was pretty quick actually — it was back and forth maybe for two months, took a little break there for a couple weeks. But I honestly think that it was max eight meetings between me and Brian,” Backstrom said. “That’s one thing we talked about, too. I wanted to get it done before the playoffs start so that we don’t have to worry about that, we can just focus on playing hockey.”
With 28 goals on the season so far, Backstrom’s linemate, Alex Ovechkin, looks likely to flirt with 50 once again by the time he and Backstrom reach the start of the playoffs. Should he get there, that 2019-20 sum would push him just over the 700-goal mark for his career, and roughly 200 off the all-time mark.
Backstrom’s no stranger to the question of whether his longtime linemate could one day upend No. 99’s all-time goals record.
“I love that you guys are talking about it, because if there’s one guy that can challenge that record, it’s him I think,” Backstrom said. “We’ll see how he does after this year. He’s going to re-sign and [we’ll see] how many years he wants to keep playing. But if he’s got it within reach, he’s going to sign one more year just to try (and reach) it.
“…Some people say records are made to be broken, so why not?”
Listen to Backstrom’s full interview with Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central via the audio player embedded within this post.