4:13 p.m.: The Calgary Flames have officially announced the contract according to a team press release. Confirming a lot of the rumors circulating about the reported contract extension, the Flames have also made Backlund their 21st captain in franchise history.
3:14 p.m.: CapFriendly has confirmed Backlund’s two-year, $4.5MM 35+ contract is filed with the league. Despite the eligibility for performance bonuses, it appears initially the entire $9MM value of the contract is paid out in base salary. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun adds the deal includes a full no-movement clause that actually kicks in immediately and will retroactively apply to the final season of his current contract. There is also a 15-team no-trade list that will kick in on January 1, 2026.
2:25 p.m.: The Calgary Flames are close to finalizing a contract extension with captaincy candidate Mikael Backlund, per a report from TSN’s Chris Johnston. The deal is pending some “final issues” that need to be resolved, but it appears the Flames will retain at least one of their many pending unrestricted free agents. Johnston reports that, when finalized, the deal will carry a $4.5MM average annual value for two seasons, keeping him in Calgary through 2025-26.
Backlund, 34, has been one of the Flames’ most consistent talents of the past decade and is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He’s far from an elite shooter, but he makes up for that deficiency in spades with solid playmaking, high-end work ethic, and strong defensive play at even strength and on the penalty kill. His 60.6% Corsi For at even strength last season was the second-best mark on the team behind defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, and he averaged roughly two minutes per game on both special teams units. Combined with a career-high 37 assists, plus 19 goals and 56 total points, Backlund was arguably the Flames’ third-best forward last season behind the team’s goals leader, Tyler Toffoli, and their assists leader, Elias Lindholm.
Over the years, Calgary also leaned on Backlund heavily in the faceoff dot. While his career win rate of 48.9% is nothing special, the sheer volume of draws he takes is staggering for a non-top-line center. He took 1,386 faceoffs last season – tied for the fourteenth most in the league with Columbus’ Boone Jenner and Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek.
This deal marks a decrease in pay for Backlund, which wasn’t the expectation after his strong season. Backlund is coming off the only long-term deal of his career: a six-year, $32.1MM extension signed before the 2018-19 season. With this season remaining at a $5.35MM cap hit, Backlund’s given the Flames 77 goals, 142 assists, 219 points, and a +70 rating in 365 games played while averaging 17:45 per game over the life of the deal. Consistency has been the name of the game for Calgary’s future captain, who also has ten goals and 17 points in 27 postseason games since 2019.
However, this offseason opened with hesitancy regarding Backlund’s future in Calgary. Shortly after the Flames were eliminated from playoff contention in April, Backlund expressed uncertainty about re-upping with the only NHL organization he’s ever known. That plotline continued through to July, where Backlund again said he wasn’t sure he’d remain in Calgary and tied his willingness to extend to the team’s performance out of the gate after a disappointing 2022-23 campaign. The tide finally turned yesterday when Johnston reported the two sides had commenced extension talks.
The next logical question to raise is the future of Elias Lindholm. If Backlund’s extension influences Lindholm to fast-track a deal to remain in Calgary past this season, it will solidify one of the more well-rounded center corps in the Pacific Division for the next three seasons with Nazem Kadri in the mix long-term as well. That gives plenty of runway for 2020 first-round pick Connor Zary, as the 22-year-old now looks back on track to make an impact in the NHL soon after a breakout 2022-23 with the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers.
Backlund is currently projected to center the team’s second line out of the gate with Blake Coleman and Andrew Mangiapane on his wings. If that holds up, don’t expect his ice time to dip too much below the 18:09 per game he saw last season, especially if new head coach Ryan Huska continues to use Backlund consistently on both special teams units. A responsible two-way center who can shoulder heavy minutes for a $4.5MM cap hit seems like a great value proposition, even if he will be 37 by the time the deal expires.
In getting this deal done early, the Flames also gain some more financial certainty for the 2024-25 season, something they need desperately, with eight rostered players currently slated for unrestricted free agency and an additional three for restricted free agency. With Backlund’s new cap hit, CapFriendly projects the Flames at $30.95MM in cap space assuming a roster size of 12 and a raised Upper Limit of $87.5MM.
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