Mikael Backlund Contract A Huge Steal For Calgary Flames


Mikael Backlund and the Calgary Flames agreed to a three year contract extension yesterday and though his offensive numbers aren’t huge, an annual average salary of $3.575 million, it is a huge steal for the Flames to get Backlund at this price.

Backlund has proven over the past three seasons to be a very valuable middle of the lineup center, who has filled in admirably on the second line. He scored 27 points in 52 games last season, and has averaged between 0.5 and 0.52 points per game each of the past three seasons.

The Swedish center may not have lived up to the offensive acumen that was promised when he was drafted in the first round, 24th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. However, Backlund has shown to be a tremendous defensive center with an ability to chip in offence, even when facing the other team’s top competition every night.

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Backlund has been the Flames top penalty killing forward and though he may fit in best as a third line center who plays against the opposition’s top line, this deal is still a great contract for the Flames. When Sam Bennett eventually moves to center, Backlund will likely fall to the third line behind Sean Monahan and Bennett on the depth chart, but he will be one of the best third line players in the league.

What makes this deal even better is that, at the age of 26, Backlund could have been an unrestricted free agent as soon as next summer. Had he signed a one year contract and elected to go to UFA on July 1, 2016, Backlund would have made far more money over the final two years of this deal.

May 5, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) passes the puck against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period in game three of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Backlund is a better hockey player than Dave Bolland in every measurable statistic, but when Bolland hit the open market a year ago the Florida Panthers rewarded him with a five year deal with a cap hit of $5.5 million. There was no evidence to suggest Bolland could be anything more than a third line center, and he was coming off two injury plagued seasons, yet he will have a cap hit of nearly $2.0 million more than Backlund for four more years.

Even aging scoring wingers who can’t score anymore get more money than Backlund on the open market. Brian Gionta left the Montreal Canadiens at the age of 35 after scoring 18 goals and 40 points in 81 games, and a one goal in 17 postseason game performance. Though he scored at about Backlund’s pace, he was nine years older than Backlund is now and showed he was out of gas by season’s end. Gionta was rewarded with a three year deal at $4.25 million per year.

Ales Hemsky, similar to Gionta, used to be a great skilled scoring winger but was coming off  three straight disappointing seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. When the Oilers were finally able to ship him out, he had a brief breakout with the Ottawa Senators, so the Dallas Stars gave the 30 year old a three year deal at $4 million per season.

Had Backlund decided to go to UFA next summer, chances are he would get a five year contract offer from somewhere at close to, if not slightly more than $5.0 million per year. Though Backlund played primarily as the second line center last season, his long term future appears to peg him behind Monahan and Bennett.

This contract is a more than fair deal for both sides. If Backlund continues his role as the second line player and if he fortunately gets even better offensively and scored 50 points, this deal is an absolute steal for the Calgary Flames. If Backlund slides down to the third line and takes on an even more defensive role, and remains as the top penalty killer and plays against the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews and Connor McDavid, this deal is a steal for the Flames.

No matter how you look at it, Backlund is a Flame for three more years at a very manageable cap hit that will not affect the team’s ability to sign Johnny Gaudreau, Monahan and Bennett to long term deals in the near future.

That’s a great contract for both sides.

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