The Bruins made a minor shockwave Wednesday when they placed Brett Ritchie on waivers in the wake of an embarrassing loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Now a much bigger move with more seismic shockwaves has arrived, as the Bruins have also placed David Backes on waivers for the purpose of sending him down to the AHL affiliate Providence Bruins for assignment.
It’s a move that’s been a possibility since the summer, as the 35-year-old Backes holds a $6 million cap hit and is nowhere close to the player the Bruins expected to get when they signed him to a free agent contract three years ago.
Backes has not been present at the Bruins practice facility for the last couple of days and had a curiously-termed a maintenance day Thursday even though he's barely played over the last few weeks.
Instead Backes has just one goal and three points in 16 games along with a minus-2 rating this season while averaging just 8:35 of ice time, and he’s understandably been a bit hesitant to play an overly physical game after he suffered another concussion earlier this season.
Bruce Cassidy referenced this along with Kevan Miller's injury to Kevan Miller as developments that have adversely impacted Boston’s ability to play the rugged, physical game that many expect the team to employ on a regular basis.
“We’ve tried to change our roster – that’s [general manager Don Sweeney] and I both – we’ve had discussions on who we’ve drafted,” said Cassidy, explaining the team’s mindset at building their roster with a mix of skill and toughness. “You draft skill guys like [Anders] Bjork, [Danton] Heinen, [Jake] DeBrusk and you can put [Pastrnak] in that mix too because he’s that type of a skill player and that’s the direction we’ve tried to go while keeping – obviously [Zdeno] Chara is more than tough – the Kevan Millers of the world. [He] happens to be injured and that’s a tough one. Connor Clifton is a guy that gives us some bite sometimes [but] he’s injured.
“We’ve tried to keep certain guys in the lineup. Chris Wagner is a physical player, [David] Backes had some of that in him, but he gets concussions a little bit and now we’re talking about what level is he going to be able to go for his personal health? I think we’ve tried to balance it. But if it’s out there [that there was a lack of response], people have a right to say it.”
Backes had just seven goals and 20 points in 70 games last season for the Bruins, and was a healthy scratch in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final against his former St. Louis Blues team last June.
The move will remove roughly $1 million of his overall $6 million cap hit from the Bruins books once Backes has been dropped to Providence, and that will free the B’s up to make any number of roster moves ahead of the NHL trade deadline next month.
It’s expected that Backes is going to clear through waivers without being claimed and there’s a very distinct possibility that he’ll be bought out of the final year of a contract that really didn’t work out for the Bruins since his arrival in Boston.