When the Washington Capitals announced that Nicklas Backstrom had hip surgery, speculation erupted that the 34-year-old forward could potentially be on his way to semi-retirement, sitting out the last few years of his contract and heading to long-term injured reserve. Not so fast, says general manager Brian MacLellan:
I think everybody is happy–the trainers, the doctors–with the surgery and the results of the surgery. It is Nick’s intention to come back and play at some point this year.
While the timeline for that return is still unclear, MacLellan made a point to explain that the team won’t be looking to use his cap space as if it were staying on LTIR the whole year. Instead, they will look to their young players to step up in his absence and carry the ship until he returns.
- Backstrom has a $9.2MM cap hit through the 2024-25 season and will turn 35 in November. If he was ruled out for the year, moving his contract to LTIR would provide a ton of flexibility for the team in free agency, allowing them to go after not only his replacement but potentially a veteran goaltender as well. MacLellan confirmed that the team will issue qualifying offers to both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov but that the position is not settled. In Pierre LeBrun’s latest for The Athletic, he even writes that he wouldn’t be surprised if they have checked in on Jack Campbell.
- There have been talks about nearly every draft pick in the first round it seems, and Washington’s No. 20 is no different. MacLellan explained that the idea of moving it has been discussed but that they are more likely to just hold onto that spot and make a selection. The Capitals didn’t have a first-round pick a year ago but have actually done a pretty good job of keeping their top selections over the years, despite being in a perpetual state of contending for the Stanley Cup.