Although he was listed among the worst contracts for 2017-18 earlier this evening, David Backes is hoping for a bounceback year in Boston. Per an article penned by NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz, Backes realizes that he has underperformed thus far during his Massachusetts tenure. In an interview, Backes highlighted that he will focus this off-season on improving his agility and acceleration, which were severely lacking last year. As Gretz mentioned, however, he is 33 years old and cannot be expected to transform overnight. Adjusting to the increased speed of the NHL game could prove a challenge for Backes, but Boston has little choice but to hope that he can become the asset that he was in St. Louis as their long-time captain. The contract is relatively unmovable unless salary is retained and there are four years left on the deal. If nothing else, Backes could learn to fit into a more sheltered third-line shutdown role, as his defensive ability is absolutely still present.
- Center Joni Ikonen is a cause for optimism in Montreal, or so says Grant McCagg of Recrutes. Ikonen’s performance in the recent Summer Showcase was truly head-turning, as the flash he displays on a regular basis is highly intriguing. He also produced enough for fourth-best in the tournament, while looking defensively capable all the while. He finished the tournament with an impressive hat trick in a loss to Sweden. Ryan Poehling, another prospect at the showcase, also played well enough to attract praise. Poehling is less dynamic that Ikonen, but he already has an NHL-ready body and two-way mindset. He, like Ikonen, netted 5 points in 5 games in the brief tournament. The comparisons to Ryan Kesler may be relatively premature, but he seems a solid bet to make an impact. If either, or both, players make the Canadiens roster in the next few seasons, it would go a long way towards alleviating the massive center-ice issues the team has struggled with for at least a decade. Alex Galchenyuk will still likely have to take the reigns for this year, however.
- The Panthers are hoping to run with the Roberto Luongo / James Reimer goalie tandem for the near future, and are seemingly OK with that. Cat Silverman wrote a piece for FanRag Sports that details how the combination might work out this season to propel the team into the post-season yet again. The duo performed admirably last year through a long down spell and a coaching change, with Reimer claiming 42 of the starts. Luongo’s save percentage was a respectable .915, just behind Reimer’s .920. Luongo will have every opportunity to return to his “starter” status, but competition isn’t always a bad thing. Luongo’s contract, with 5 years remaining at 38, looks really formidable though, so the organization has to hope he can maintain his form well enough to grind out at least 3 more seasons. Craig Anderson is still going strong at 36, and Tim Thomas had his best years after the age of 34. Lightening Luongo’s yearly load will go a long way towards keeping him fresh. Ultimately, GM Dale Tallon had a solid, if unremarkable off-season, and is staying patient with the progress of his young core. As long as neither goalie’s performance totally implodes, they should at least challenge for a playoff spot.