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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

WWYD Wednesday – Re-sign Mikael Backlund?

Aside from Sam Bennett, Brad Treliving’s remaining priority this summer may be re-signing Mikael Backlund. After labouring in relative obscurity for years, Backlund established himself as a premier two-way centerman last season, managing a career high 22 goals and 53 points while playing some of the toughest circumstances in the league. As a result, the 28-year-old finished fourth in Selke voting.

Backlund’s current contract doesn’t expire until next summer, but the Flames have the option to re-ink him now.

But the question is – should they? And if so, how much?

The considerations

Let’s get the first question out of the way – of course the Flames should re-sign Backlund. He remains their best even strength pivot and their best penalty killer. Backlund’s ability to take on tough competition makes life much easier for the club’s scorers and he tends to make almost anyone he plays with better. Of every regular skater who has played for Calgary over the last three seasons, Backlund has the best GF% (goals for ratio) at 5on5 at 52.9%.

The real question is, should they sign him now? Backlund’s stock has never been higher given his career-best point total and Selke consideration. The gamble for Treliving is this:

  1. Lock up Backlund now at his peak value and risk him coming back down to earth next season.
  2. Wait until next year, only to see Backlund do as well or better next season, further increasing his price.

Although none of Backlund’s results this season were due to circumstances or a percentage spike, it’s possible he could see less offensive and PP ice time next year, decreasing his counting stats and potentially lowering his asking price. Of course, if the 3M line has anywhere near the same impact in 2017-18, he may still be in line for Selke consideration and a bunch of leverage in negotiations.

The price

For now, let’s assume that the deal gets done sooner rather than later.

What should the Flames offer? We’ve noted previously that the range for Backlund comparables seems to be in the $5.25 – $6.0M territory.

Frans Nielsen scored a six-year, $5.25M per year contract from the Detroit Red Wings last summer at the age of 30, and is perhaps the best comparable available. If we take his deal as the exemplar, it gives us a length and average annual value (AAV) to work around.

Backlund has worked through a number of smaller, “prove it” contracts over his career, so we can safely assume the player is going to look for both term and dollars since this might be his last chance to cash in. On the other hand, the Flames will want the lowest cap hit possible given potential future raises to Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett down the road.

Meaning Treliving will want to find ways to drop the AAV to $5M per year or less if possible. He has two tools to accomplish this, which both relate to security: no trade clauses and term.

An NTC or NMC obviously gives the player power over his future. I think most GMs tend to hand them out far too easily, but sometimes they are justified – particularly if the player is of high value and the clause is given in exchange for dollars.

And, of course, the Flames could append a tail end to Backlund’s contract with lower salary to drop the AAV. For example, a structure like this: $6M-$6M-$5.5M-$5.0M-$4.5M-$4.0M-$3.5M gets the Flames under $5M/year, saving the team valuable cap space during its contention window.

It also takes the player to his 35th birthday, deferring a bunch of risk to the team’s distant future. For Treliving, the gamble here is it worth it to trade the future risk for present cap savings?

So what would you do? Give Backs “the Nielsen” of around $5.25M or more over five or so seasons? Offer him a shorter, but richer AAV? A NTC? Or the long tail deal that lowers the cap hit but increases the chance of suffering through a declining player with a big contract down the road?

Or do you just wait it out to see how he does this season?

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  • everton fc

    Reward Backlund. He deserves it. He’s patiently, and w/o verbal “guff” like Baertschi, awaited his chance. He’s been a good soldier for this team, and a good role model. Pay him what he’s due. Make him a Flame for the rest of his career.

  • Newbietwo

    The league needs to add two more teams.. I am honestly shocked that in cowtown after having joined this blog and reading so many comments where most grow up playing the game yet don’t fully get systems the game or issues

    There has been a pretty good influx of young players and with the cap as it is it has created a log jam of players who don’t get developmental minutes or paid.. you used to see 2-3 good lines on a team.. the third line primarily used for talented high drafted prospects not so long ago..

    All teams seek out a scoring line, a shutdown line, a driving line and a energy line. Take the flames prospect as an example they are hard pressed now to get into the league because fourth and yes third lines are filled with veterans and signing mistakes virtually on every NHL team.. you have the likes of Boyle and Stajans and many others playing 4th line C..

    You also have very stupid management in the NHL.. for example I propose a $3 million increase in cap and two more teams added.. and a mandate to increase roster by 3 additional spots making it mandatory that each team needs to have 2 prospect reserves in additions to any line up as it is now.

    Just because it’s an 82 game schedule doesn’t mean all stars and vets need to play 82. Its hard on the body just like a goalie I propose a further mandatory a player cannot play more than 72 games a season which forces the use of more players across the board.. The talent is there but it’s not utilized right because every damn time the cap goes up stupid GMs throw out ridiculous contracts..

    Lastly I think a maximum $10 million cap for a player and an unquestioned tier for salary. Example 0-20 points equals $600k to $1.25m 20-39 points $1.25m to $3.5m 40-50 points equals $3.5m to $4.5m and 50 points to 70 points $4.5m to $6.5m lastly 70 points plus $6.5m to $10m.. frankly if you entrench those salary ranges you wouldn’t need a team salary cap if you think about it..

    • Newbietwo

      A 72 games per player maximum would open up 180 games per NHL team for other players to fill!!! It would force teams to utilize their prospects and empathize development and would really show good vs bad drafting..

      It would also make trading a first round pic a harder pill to swallow so more gutsy..

      That’s 5500 game spots for players and would increase league players by 90 to 100 more..

      • urbzy

        When I have to pay so much money for a ticket to an NHL game, I don’t want to see the prospects. Those 10 games that Johnny has to sit so he doesn’t go over the 72 game maximum? I’m much less likely to attend or even watch on TV.

    • Off the wall

      You can’t run a team based on points per player- that would be an injustice to role players on the team, who for lack of better analogy don’t receive the same quality of teammates or time on special teams – offensive specialist vs defensive specialist. How do you equate for Defenceman… points?
      What you propose is absurd and doesn’t fix salary cap issues. It just creates more. Not one player would agree to that in the current CBA , for sure you would invoke lockout.
      If GM’s want to throw money at players that’s their prerogative.
      If they create their own CAP HELL, all the better for the brilliant GM’s who learn how to manage theirs.

    • 666

      I like the idea of two more teams and the 2 more roster spots, but the tiering for paying is a little too left field for me. Thats a good way to lose players to the KHL.

    • KH44

      This completely disregards the CBA, and how the NHL works. The only way an idea like your salary structure would work is if teams and the players could come up with a version of WAR that both sides accept, with each player paid a base salary, and then at the end of the season divide the remaining revenue based on the the value of their WAR. Reducing games would not be acceptable based on this system, as it would reduce the amount of playing times for players to accrue WAR. It would also dramatically affect playoff races and fans would be buying tickets to see players that are scratched even though healthy and prepared to play so less skilled players get a chance. A $10 million cap only hurts the best players, and less skilled players win. That would create more ‘signing mistakes’ as you put it.
      So, players get 50% of revenue, and a million dollar salary for the year. Come June, WAR is calculated, and everyone gets what they have earned above that. Players can no longer negotiate salary, as there is no point, so teams would have a brutal time recruiting players and keeping players, as why not just sign with whatever team can offer the most ice time? Why would a player agree to be a third liner on a winning team, instead of a second liner on a losing team, if means dramatically less money? What is the NHLPA’s incentive to agree to a system like this?

      • Newbietwo

        I am not saying reduce games!! What I am saying is that we keep an 82 game season but that you add more roster spots and limit each player to 72 games a season giving them off days rest and balance.. it also brings curiosity into coaching decisions when to rest certain players.. if a player is limited to 72 games a season that opens up during a season 5500 game spots for those additional 100 roster spots..

        Why can’t you have bigger reserves up at the NHL instead of the ridiculous call up crap.. there are enough players out there that would say yes do this and give me a contract like Chiason on the outside right now and it further forced your prospects to come up

        • KH44

          You have just reduced games for each player. Crosby now has 72 games to rack up points, instead of 82, and fans don’t get to see him for an extra ten games. Those games will guaranteed be road games, upsetting other teams’ fans that won’t get to see the stars when they come visit.

    • oilcanboyd

      Three more roster spots will mean more sitting for reserve players and callups, especially if a team encounters only a few injuries on the season. Look at TSpoon last season; sat out his entire callup.

      Off the wall idea to limit anyone’s playtime to 72 games. This won’t fly with fans who want to see a superstar in their building at least once a year, which is why the NHL revamped their schedule to allow for at least a Home-Away set for every team.

  • TriPPiNvdUb

    Just pay the man and be done with it, Backs has had to suffer through and soldier on to start his career in the NHL. Had he been given proper line mates to begin with (see Sam Bennett) all data points towards him blossoming offensively earlier in his career. He is our first homegrown center in over 2 decades to make any sort of real impact and he defines what it means to play the game the right way (Sorry WW) Backs is the lynch pin up front that takes this team from being a pretender to a having a legitimate shot at a championship. 200 ft players like him don’t come along very often.

    • Southboy

      I absolutely agree eith everything you just wrote. But just because of all that do you overpay him? Thays how contracts become ‘toxic’ to the fans and the organization.

        • Southboy

          Well Backlund is no Bergeron, so lets not get silly. Lol. As i have stated in previous comments, over 5m/year on a contract over 5/6 years would be. A 5/6 year deal at 5m is about the highest for a 38year okd with ONE, i repeat ONE year over 50pts. I LOVE me some Backs, but to iverpay a guy cause of affection is how teams get into cap trouble.

      • HOCKEY83

        50-60+ points per season gets you 5.5 to 6.5 mil per year. That just reality. It’s not an over payment. Whether the flames pay him that or not someone looking for a center will and if the Flames wait too long this season they will just lose him to free agency for nothing. He should get from the flames, at the very minimum, if they’re lucky enough to get him at that price…$5mil for 5 years

        • Southboy

          I agree someone will. I am worried for this team going forward that we will.

          If i am following your reasoning than you are saying RNH for the BOilers is paid fair production?

  • BendingCorners

    Next summer one team or another will sign him for 6.0-6.5 x 5-6 years. If BT can lock him up now for anything less than that then it’s a win for the Flames. Otherwise Montreal, NYR, Nashville, Columbus, LA and maybe even Ottawa will line up with smiles and and checkbooks.

      • HOCKEY83

        Southboy…Ideal for the Flames but not for Backlund. He’ll want security and may take slightly less for longer term but no way at his age is he looking for a 2 or 3 or even 4 year contract.

        • Southboy

          I agree he wont, also the 3/4 year deal i suggested was Flames positive, if he wants 5/6 i would still do that, just not at 5.5-6m. But thats just me. I dont disagree the flames or someone else wont give him that.

  • Fan the Flames

    Mikael is arguably one of the Flames best players . Anyone playing with him has a great season just ask Lance Bouma or Mathew Thachuk . The 3M line was one of the top lines in the league statistically and playing tough minutes against the top players in the league . He deserves a big raise and a long term deal.

  • Lucky 13

    There’s not too many players I’m passionate about. However Backlund is one of them.

    Forgive me, but someone on here mentioned before how Backlund has steadily worked on his game. Fastest skater, hardest shot on the Flames…
    Could we have said that about him 5 years ago?

    Backlund is the epitome of a guy who has earned his stripes. Never gripes, does whatever is asked of him. Team guy, great leader by example.
    He has been deployed in unfavourable circumstances.. we all know it.. don’t deny it.

    Treliving KNOWS his value.
    I wish our fan base took more time to appreciate his contributions rather than ignore the player who exemplifies core values.

    • Southboy

      I very much am a major Backlund fan. As his Jersey is the 2nd one i have ever purchased. ( 1st being Peplinski:):):). ). He is also very underrated and is a core piece to our team. My point only is that we all want him for 6 more years, i am all for that, but we should use his past production to try and get him in at a lower cap, to help us over those next 6 years. To say he has worked really hard and than hand him 6million is kinda bad asset management.

      • Lucky 13

        Congratulations on the Backlund Jersey! Wear it with pride, he does.
        I’m not here to judge anyone, I understand this is also about business as well.
        Treliving has a great vision for this team. I defer all judgement to him.
        My first jersey was Fluery, retro red… I love it!

      • TriPPiNvdUb

        His past production says that he was poorly deployed and underutilized and had he not suffered so many injuries and been given proper linemates he very well could have done better off for himself then having to sign show me deals year after year.

        His season wasn’t some fluke, all underlying numbers support that his style of play is not only sustainable but dominate.

  • Puckhead

    Backlund is the Flames premiere shutdown centre who makes players around him better and drives play against the other teams top lines. There is no question here – SIGN HIM!!!

    Go 🔥 Go!!!

  • RKD

    Tricky to navigate, sign him for sure Backs made Bouma better and new kid Tkachuk has really benefitted playing on a line with him and Frolik. I’m sure the Flames would love a front loaded deal that tapers off towards the end, I would be leery about handing out a NMC or NTC. Last season was a career high for him, I’m interested to see if he can do it again. He’s shown a lot of consistency the last 2 season and he’s remained healthy.

  • Arminius

    6 mill? Uh no. For a guy that has only once managed over 47 points? And he couldn’t muster that till he got Tkachuk . Oh but it’s Backlund and the fawning sheep always say it’s okay if he doesn’t score. Frolik gets 4.3, give him 5 or a hair more tops

  • Eggs Bennett

    A good benchmark for forwards scoring more than 40pts per season is $0.1MMx recent career high in points (must be within past 3 yrs). Monahan is $6.375 for 63 pts, Frolik is $4.3 for 44 pts, Brouwer is $4.5MM for 43pts. That’s why Johnny’s deal at $6.75 for 78 pts is such a steal and someone like Oshie $8 for 56pts is a drastic overpayment. Of course term, UFA status, and possession stats come into play, but Backlund should land around $5.3 for what he has done. I’d say term will be around 5 years (there seems to be a good correlation too with term length and the $MM rounded to the nearest whole number).

  • Robb

    Thanks for the article, Kent. I would offer Backlund this:
    4.5×8 years, full NMC and make the contract “lockout proof” by ensuring the majority of the money is signing bonuses. Just my two cents.