The Anaheim Ducks are going to have to shed salary somewhere, but it won’t come in the form of a David Backes buyout or trade. The team told the 36-year-old right winger that they have high expectations for him, according to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.
The Anaheim Ducks have told David Backes they intend to keep him and expect him to be a regular in the lineup in what could be his final season. Backes is 50 games shy of a 1000 for his career and has been working with a skating coach twice a week in Minny.— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) September 23, 2020
It’s been a long road for Backes, who has just one year remaining on his five-year, $30 million contract he originally signed with the Boston Bruins in 2016. Health complications during the 2017-18 season marked the start of a decline and last season, he played in just 22 games between Boston and Anaheim.
The extended break might allow for Backes to come back fully healthy for the first time in a while. This is the first time that he hasn’t played in the postseason since 2011. Even so, Backes has been of some value in recent years, even when his offensive play hasn’t risen to the scale of his $6 million pay grade (of which, it should be noted that the Ducks are paying just $4.5 million).
He still has a positive impact on the defensive side of the game (expressed through a negative number on this visualization):
Here’s a few more charts showing his isolated impact, first looking at last season and then the last three seasons:
The Ducks only saw Backes for six games after acquiring him at the trade deadline in February 2020. In a bottom-six role and used strategically — certainly it could be worse. No one really wants to be paying a bottom-six forward $6 million, but the Ducks’ problems are bigger than the Backes contract.
Buying out Backes just doesn’t make sense. Per CapFriendly, the Ducks would only gain $1 million in cap relief over the two years they would be paying out Backes, though in the short-term, they’d earn $2 million in space for this season. With the uncertainty around the 2020-21 season anyway, the Ducks are going to have to eat this loss. The best-case scenario is that rested and healthy, Backes has a bounce-back year and gets moved to a contender at the deadline to go out in style.
Like I said though, the Ducks are going to need relief somewhere. Currently they’re sitting at 41/50 contracts and have a meager $470,001 in estimated cap space. That’s not even breathing room, let alone wiggle room. The organization is certainly viewing this upcoming season as another rebuild year, sure, but there are five pending restricted free agents, as well as ten pending unrestricted free agents without contracts and no money to pay any of them — including goaltender Ryan Miller, should he wish to return for another year.