When Niklas Backstrom came to the Flames following the 2016 trade deadline, he came with a guarantee that he would get some games in. At 38 years old, and having not seen the ice in 14 months, it was nothing more than a last hoorah for the aging netminder, and the Flames at least got a sixth round pick out of it.
Backstrom played four games with the Flames, including their regular season finale against his old team, the Minnesota Wild. It was a nice ending, but nothing more.
The last time Backstrom had played? Jan. 13, 2015, in a 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wild traded for Devan Dubnyk the very next day, he saw success in Minnesota, and that was pretty much that.
Except Backstrom still took to the ice in Minnesota when healthy, even if he was the team’s third goaltender, and relegated to the pressbox. So in exchange for David Jones, the Flames took on Backstrom’s contract – just a little cheaper than Jones’ – and a sixth round pick, and Backstrom got to take the ice for actual games once again.
His first game was a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a .955 SV% effort in which he didn’t have to do much. His second game was a much different story: facing off against the Wild for the first time in his career, he was subjected to a 6-2 loss, during which he had just a paltry .793 SV%. It was hardly an ideal return to his old barn. Backstrom’s third game came against the Anaheim Ducks, when he subbed in for an unfortunate end to Jonas Hiller’s NHL career; he let in five goals on 22 shots for a .773 SV% over the final 53 minutes of the game.
It was Backstrom’s finale – to the season, and probably to his NHL career – that was probably his best showing, though. With a .972 SV%, Backstrom stopped 35 of 36 shots and collected his first ever win against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild had nothing to play for by that point in the season, but they clearly weren’t willing to lay down and die, and Backstrom more than earned his win.
Overall, Backstrom played four games for the Flames, and had a .881 SV%. He won’t be back, but it was cool while it lasted.
What comes next?
Probably a pretty sweet retirement life, maybe even with some coaching gigs or hockey schools here and there if he’s up to it. Backstrom played 413 games, almost exclusively with the Wild. If this truly is ultimately it, I’m happy the Flames were able to let him go out on his own terms.