NHL Rumors: Nicklas Backstrom career uncertain after surgery, possible UFA replacements

nhl rumors nicklas backstrom
Mar 26, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) is honored in a pre-game ceremony for recording his 1,000th point before a game against the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL Rumors mill is going to turn its attention to Nicklas Backstrom and the Washington Capitals after this weekend’s news.

On Friday, Alex Ovechkin’s longtime center underwent surgery on his left hip. The team also announced that the procedure was performed at the ANCA Clinic in Belgium. Backstrom will begin his rehab and “lengthy recovery process immediately.”

The 34 year-old has three years remaining on a deal that comes with an AAV of $9.2M. In limited action, he posted 31 points in 47 games in 2021-22.

NHL Rumors: Nicklas Backstrom

nicklas backstrom
Apr 18, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This past season, Backstrom missed the first two months due to hip related issues. It’s not the first time his hip gave him a problem. Back in 2015, he had arthroscopic surgery during the offseason.

“The hip is not going to be 100 percent,” Backstrom said May 15. “That’s something we all know. Some days are good. Some days are less good. That’s just life. … The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and that’s my life. Obviously, I want to be back. I want to be back to normal, not worrying about this. We’ll see what’s going to happen. Nothing is finalized yet.”

NHL.com

The previous surgery had him back in time for the following season but there’s a growing concern for Backstrom’s career moving forward.

There’s no word on how long the actual recovery process will be and it seems likely that he could miss a large portion of the 2022-23 campaign. The Capitals should be placing him on LTIR and using most of his $9.2M cap relief to sign a top UFA center.

There are several targets expected to be available when the market opens on July 13. That list should start first and foremost with Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche.

Kadri, 31, has six goals and eight assists over Colorado’s first 13 games of the playoffs before injuring his hand on a boarding hit by the Oilers Evander Kane. In 71 games in the regular season, Kadri tallied career highs with 87 points and 59 assists along with 28 goals.

As he fights to return for the Stanley Cup Final, he’s looking at a major pay increase from his current $4.5M salary on the free agent market.

Another option could be Claude Giroux if the Florida Panthers can’t create enough cap space to re-sign him.

This past season, the 34 year-old forward posted 65 points in 75 games between the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers. However, he found renewed life with the Cats picking up 23 points in 18 games after the trade and then added 8 more points in 10 playoff contests.

Giroux just completed an 8-year deal he signed with the Flyers in 2014-15 for $8.275M AAV.

Other less expensive options could be Vincent Trocheck with the Carolina Hurricanes or Ryan Strome with the New York Rangers.

One does wonder if Evgeni Malkin would go to a hated rival like the Caps should the Pittsburgh Penguins be unable to re-sign him.