St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced that Blues captain David Backes is unlikely to re-sign with the team before the July 1 free agency deadline.
Last summer, many believed Backes could be on his way out of St. Louis after the team fell far short of expectations in the playoffs yet again despite another strong regular-season effort. However, the Blues decided to ship T.J. Oshie to Washington and kept Backes in the mix. Backes had a decent season, finishing with 45 points in 79 games. However, he did make his presence felt in the postseason, scoring 14 points in 20 playoff games as the Blues finally broke through and had a very strong postseason run.
Though Backes is the captain and used to play on the team’s top line, he was relegated to third-line duties for much of the season as Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera took over as the top-six centers. That being said, Backes has remained an important part of the lineup, and his physical play often sets the tone for the team.
There’s still a possibility that Backes could test free agency and decide to sign with St. Louis in the end, but considering the pay raise he is most likely due, that scenario is unlikely. This is especially true considering the Blues could very well target someone like Scott Hartnell, who is now on the trading block in Columbus. Hartnell has continued to produce with the Blue Jackets, scoring 60 points and 49 points in the past two seasons, respectively. He brings a physical edge to his game, and his $4.75 million cap hit is quite similar to the $4.5 million cap hit Backes has carried for the past five seasons. This is merely conjecture, but the Blues team is very different than it was even two seasons ago, with Vladimir Tarasenko taking the reigns. So it certainly is not shocking to see St. Louis pass on Backes.
Armstrong also said that impending unrestricted free agent forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall will also likely hit the market.
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