A few days ago, Jeremy Rutherford discussed contract negotiations with Doug Armstrong and David Backes' agent, Wade Arnott. The two sides chatted during training camp, where the Blues' offered Backes a three year deal valued at $5.5 million a season, good for a million dollar a year raise for the aging captain. Backes' camp turned it down, and contract talks have been basically shelved during the season as to not pose a "distraction." It's understandable why Backes' camp should turn down that deal; it's also understandable why the Blues made it - putting out feelers is never a bad call.
What would it take to re-sign Backes? Many point to the six-year, $41.2 million extension signed last year by Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler as a comparable, though that deal was met with immediate skepticism, and with Kesler limited to eight goals and 19 points in his first 45 games this season, criticism has grown.
It’s believed that Backes would be open to an average annual value (AAV) less than Kesler’s $6.8 million to stay in St. Louis, but not significantly less.
"This is your captain, he’s grown up in this organization," Arnott said. "At the end of the day, I think ideally he would love to finish his career in this organization, but at the same time it has to be a reasonable deal for both sides."
A million dollar raise and a shorter term than his current contract may seem like a vote of minimal confidence, but it's not. It's just a starting point. Doug Armstrong will need to be careful with contract signings this off-season, as the Blues will have to negotiate a RFA deal with Jaden Schwartz at the same time. Other pending UFAs include Scottie Upshall, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak, and Troy Brouwer, so extending Backes, getting Schwartz a new deal, and potentially bringing at least one of those guys back will eat up cash.
The Backes deal more than likely will be done. The optics of trading your captain when you're not a team that plans to be a seller at the deadline are atrocious, and losing Backes will cost the Blues their third highest goal scorer (12) and points guy (28). As much as fans concern themselves with on-ice leadership (and I freely admit, I have criticized many of Backes' decisions during game play and after whistles), the Blues' lack of post-season success isn't entirely on his shoulders, and to trade him before the post-season would be a poor decision that would, more than likely, leave the team with a leadership vacuum.
Doing what the team will more than likely do, which is re-sign Backes, creates a salary conundrum for the team. The Blues are a cap club and why are they a cap club? Because of contracts like Jay Bouwmeester's, who has three years left at $5.4 million a year and a no trade clause. Or perhaps Jori Lehtera's three years remaining at $4.7 million raises an eyebrow. Maybe Paul Stastny's two remaining no-move seasons at $7 million a pop serve as a reminder of the optimism the team felt in bringing the local guy aboard before Ken Hitchcock plunked him down in a system that he hasn't seemed to thrive in yet.
Basically, what I'm hinting at, is at the end of next season, Kevin Shattenkirk is a UFA. Shattenkirk right now has a $4.25 million cap hit, and as the team's best defenseman and key component on the power play, will demand a raise. Trade chatter has begun already, and the pending deal for Backes is part of it.
If the Blues pay big bucks for a long-term deal (or even short term) for their captain, who is unfortunately on the wrong side of 30, it will hamstring extension talks with Shattenkirk.Or, on the other hand, Shatty stays and the Blues will have to deal one of their other large contracts.
Regardless of how you spin it, if Backes stays - and he probably will - then the Blues will probably see someone dealt, either Shattenkirk or Lehtera. Is that worth the price of Backes?