A few months ago, there were questions as to whether Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom would be able to play ever again, let alone this season. However, his recovery from hip resurfacing surgery has gone well and the veteran is ready to suit up as the team announced (Twitter link) that he will make his season debut tomorrow against Columbus.
Backstrom will become only the second NHL player to play after undergoing this procedure. Long-time blueliner Ed Jovanovski was the other as he suited up in 37 games with Florida back in the 2013-14 season before the team bought him out.
The 35-year-old’s return will undoubtedly be a big boost to Washington’s lineup. Even while playing through the injury last season, he had 31 points in 47 games while before that, he had been in the top three in scoring for the Capitals for nine straight years. While there will certainly be an adjustment period as he plays his way back into game conditioning, Backstrom should be able to deepen what has already been a pretty strong attack this season as the Caps enter play today with the fourth-most goals in the NHL.
Backstrom, who carries a $9.5MM AAV, is currently on LTIR which means that the Capitals will need to get cap-compliant in order to activate him. They’ve already made the first move as Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic relays (Twitter link) that defenseman John Carlson has been transferred to LTIR. Carlson, who will miss a few months after taking a shot to the face last month, carries an $8MM AAV which will cover most of what they’ll need to clear to activate Backstrom.
The Capitals needed to free up a roster spot as well in order to welcome Backstrom back onto the roster. It will be sophomore center Aliaksei Protas that cedes his spot as the team announced that he has been sent down. Protas was a healthy scratch last night against Nashville and was the lone waiver-exempt player on the roster so he was the logical choice. The 22-year-old has largely been a regular this season having played in 41 games (while recording 10 points) but subbing in Backstrom for him will certainly improve Washington’s chances of holding down a playoff spot in the tight Metropolitan Division.