A lot of contract stories are starting to pick-up steam around the NHL, so I thought it would make sense to look at what Mikael Backlund’s new contract could be and how it fits into the Flames future cap situation.
First we must gauge what Backlund’s new contract could look like. Backlund is playing some of his best hockey of his career right now and has continually improved season-by-season.
Just looking at points, Backlund entered 2017-18 coming off a career high 53 including 22 goals in 2016-17. This season he has 18 points in 26 games entering Monday’s game against Philadelphia. That’s a pace of 57 points which would be another career high year for him, and the third year in a row he increased his career high.
Backlund has also been remarkably healthy, only missing one game over the last two and a half seasons (which was a healthy scratch/rest game in the season finale last year).
Looking at some his defensive numbers really gives you the big picture of what Backlund brings to the table. He has reliably become of the best two-way centremen in the NHL over the last three seasons, and has become the key cog in Calgary’s infamous 3M Line.
Backlund has been tasked with the worst zone starts among regular forwards at 39.3%, meaning that only 39.3% of his shifts begin in the offensive zone. Despite the poor starts, he carries the second best CF% on the entire team at 58.21%, just a half percent behind his linemate Matthew Tkachuk.
The ability that Backlund and his linemates have to consistently get the puck out of their zone, and then go down the ice and score is something that is very difficult to find in today’s NHL. Since being paired with Tkachuk, Backlund has found a new edge to his game and it’s really fun to watch.
The Flames have deployed Backlund consistently on the penalty kill, powerplay, in 3 on 3, and in all situations at even strength. He’s succeeded in every situation thrown his way. He’s been very underrated in the NHL for years, but now some teams and their fans are noticing him as a pending UFA and are starting to lick their chops.
A New Contract
So what could a contract for Mikael Backlund look like? He’s currently wrapping up the third year of a deal with a cap hit of $3.575 million per year, which ended up being an absolute steal.
The difficulty in finding the value of a new contract is that there aren’t really a lot of players that fully compare to what Backlund brings to the table. The most recent signing of a big name centre was that of Kyle Turris who signed with Nashville for six years at six million dollars per season.
That number may likely be the ceiling of what Backlund could get, but the floor almost definitely won’t fall under $5 million based on his strong performance again this season.
It sounds as if the two sides haven’t talked much since training camp, but it would probably be wise from a Flames standpoint to start working towards getting an extension in place because as other players sign their extensions, Backlund’s number will likely only go up, along with his continued strong play. This contract is likely Backlund’s best chance to cash in on a big payday, so you can believe that will be a heavily weighted factor in negotiations.
If I was to take my best guess, I would settle on a four year deal at $5.25 million dollars per season.
Flames Cap Situation Moving Forward
As things sit now, the Flames have around $17.8 million in cap space for next season, and the cap will likely rise once again so it could end up near $20 million of space not including buyouts or other deals.
Matt Stajan, Kris Versteeg, and Jaromir Jagr will likely be out next season which opens up a lot of space. Players that will be in line for a raise include Backlund, Mark Jankowski, and Brett Kulak. The Flames will have more than enough money available to pay Backlund a fair contract.
The Flames would be wise to save a lot of that leftover space for the following offseason where there isn’t much money coming off the books, but Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland will be in need of new contracts.
Backlund is without a doubt one of the best Flames in all situations, and in my opinion is right at the top of the list for most important Flame. He deserves a big contract, and he’ll certainly get one.
I just hope it’s from the Flames.