The Boston Bruins recently waived veteran forward David Backes, with an expectation that the 36 year-old report to the Providence Bruins.
The decision was certainly bold; the Boston Bruins, as many other NHL teams do, pride themselves on making decisions that hold veteran players, such as David Backes in higher regard that asking them to ride the buses.
It’s obvious it’s a decision the Boston Bruins didn’t want to make as it openly admits their failings in offering him a $6 million per year contract back in 2016. The sheer fact it didn’t occur before now shows how little they wanted to do it.
Fact is David Backes hasn’t lived up to expectations with the team and the Boston Bruins needed the space on the roster. Given the instant spark that Karson Kuhlman gave the team, it’s not hard to see why demoting Backes was the right move.
While it is somewhat unprecedented; the Maple Leafs did something similar to Brooks Laich but that was different as they’d just accrued him in a trade, as opposed to having him around the organisation for any lengthy period.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Kings recently waived Ilya Kovalchuk; again, it was different though as they were buying him out of his contract.
To ask a veteran such as David Backes to ride the buses is no doubt a kick in the teeth in terms of the player’s individual pride and the Boston Bruins may have hoped it led to a retirement announcement, thus getting them off the hook financially.
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Instead, it would appear that David Backes is going to suit up, like the professional he is, for the Providence Bruins and look to win back a place with the big club. Perhaps telling is the fact that Boston are still allowing him his allotted NHL All-Star break off.
This move screams of having some degree of guilt about the waiving. Realistically, it’s all on the Boston Bruins front office team; they were the ones that inked the 5 year $30 million contract.
At the time, Backes was coming off a 45 point campaign and prior to that had back-to-back 50+ point years.
It’s fair to see why he was given decent dollars; however, the sticking point for a while has been the term dished out. His first two years in Boston saw drops into the 30-something points range before he totalled fell off the cliff.
You can’t really blame the player for accepting the contract back when he did. Equally, I doubt even he, himself, expecting his skills to become less useful as quickly as they did. Fact is though, the game moves much faster these days.
Unfortunately, he had become somewhat of an anchor to the team, on the ice at least. What is clear is that he had an impact in the locker-room and was most definitely a character guy amongst teammates; not a big surprise given he is a former NHL team captain with the St. Louis Blues.
🎥 Patrice Bergeron on David Backes: “The impact that he’s had ever since he got here, on and off the ice, his leadership that he brought…he was a big part of the mentality that we’ve built here. We wish him all the best. We’re going to miss him.” pic.twitter.com/E3UKJZgpez
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 17, 2020
Waiving him saves the Boston Bruins $1 million in salary cap space, which in turn gives them a little more deadline manoeuvring room. It leaves a bit of an ugly after-taste, but that’s the nature of the hockey business.
With any luck, the time spent with Providence allows him to impart his years of NHL wisdom on our next generation of Boston Bruins players, not only that, hopefully it gives him a chance to shake any lingering effects of the concussion troubles he suffered this season.
Who knows; maybe the demotion sparks a revitalisation of his career and the AHL proves perfect for him to re-discover his scoring touch and maybe offer a wild-card in-house rental for what will hopefully be another lengthy play-off run?
The wrong decision? No, just a hard decision but one that had to be made.