The NHL draft as come and gone, but that doesn't mean the off season moves are over. Teams are attempting to secure and rebuild their rosters. After another stunning first round exit, many fans are calling for changes. While I will leave my opinions of Hitchcock for another time, I will discuss some "core" players and whether they should stay or go. I am not a GM, nor do I pretend to know the inner workings of NHL trades. This is not an article projecting who we should target to get in return if a player is moved, but simply should we try to move them.
We have previously looked at Jay Bouwmeester here and TJ Oshie here. Now it's time to move onto the captain himself, David Backes. Backes took over the C in 2011 after posting a career year. He was the first player in Blues history to score 30 goals, 30 assists and have a +30 in a season. His finals marks that year were G: 31 A: 31 +/-:32. Backes has failed to score 30 goals again in a season, but has posted 26 and 27 goals in his past two season respectively. His assist total has stayed relatively the same, notching between 30 and 32 assists for the last 5 seasons. (I removed the lockout shortened season where he had 22 assists in 48 games). Where Backes fails is in the postseason. In 29 postseason games, he has scored 5 goals, and only 8 assists. His shooting percentage drops from his regular season mark of 12.5% to 8.5% when he plays in the postseason.
Backes just turned 31, and he has played professionally for 9 seasons, all of them in blue. Is it time to cut bait? I was informed in the comments section of a previous article that these posts miss their mark. That any player is available for trade for the right price. This is only partially true. In hockey with a salary cap you can only have so many stars on your roster. If anyone can come up with a trade that would make logical sense for Chicago to take to unload Kane when they don't want to I'd love to hear it. The entire LA Kings roster? Then who would Kane play with, and more than half of the players would be cut or sent down if they are on 2 ways. Some players are more or less not able to be traded. They mean too much to their team, and there is no other team who could put up enough logical players to make them part. These articles look at simply, should the Blues be out hunting for trades. In the off season every GM's phone is on, and he will listen to every offer that comes through. There is a difference between listening to offers, cautiously testing the market, and full on shopping a player. If Chicago called us up and said they wanted Backes and would give us Kane, anyone takes that deal. That won't happen. This is Game Time, not the Lounge. Let us stay within the realm of logic.
A player like Backes is not going to get any better than he currently is. He is not developing new skills or getting stronger or faster. In a logical trade situation you could get another player of his caliber back, or a player of lesser value and a prospect. The interest in Backes from other teams currently seems to be lower than his current value to this team. An aging player with postseason woes isn't what most GM's are looking for.
Moving Backes is also unique in the fact that if he leaves, the captaincy is open. Our current A's are Oshie, Steen, Jackman, and Pietrangelo. Jackman left the Gateway City and went west. The call to move Oshie is as loud or louder than that to move Backes. This leaves Steen and Pietrangelo. Both would have legitimacy to their claim as the captain, but neither in my mind fit. I think it is only a matter of time until Tarasenko takes over the C, but I don't think he's ready to carry that torch just yet.
Backes has been in the top 5 in Selke voting for the last 5 seasons. That is not an easy task, or one that should be taken lightly. He is under contract for this season and then becomes an UFA. His current deal is 4.5 million a year, just shy of half of the salary Toews receives, who may be considered the best in the business at center. The fear of losing Backes for nothing in free agency is smaller than the fear of getting nothing worth while and one less season from him in a trade.
David Backes should Stay.
(As a side note: Backes currently has a no trade clause in his contract. This means that if we were to want a trade Backes, he would have to agree to it. If he didn't want to go he could simply point to his contract and that is the end of it. I can't imagine Backes wanting to leave a team that competes for the cup every year for one who doesn't. I also can't see team who is on the cusp of a cup saying Backes is their missing piece.If they did, I doubt they would have a player of value to the Blues who they are willing to lose.)