What to do with a highly-paid veteran who was a healthy scratch for three of the Boston Bruins' seven Stanley Cup Final games?
That's the dilemma the Bruins face with center David Backes, who is set to make $6 million next season (sixth-highest on the the team) entering the fourth year of a five-year contract.
Boston could trade Backes to one of eight teams on his modified no-trade list, or buy out the final two years of his deal. But Bruins general manager Don Sweeney suggested Monday that Backes could be a part of the Bruins' plans in 2019-20.
"We had a tremendous run (this postseason) and he was a big part of that," Sweeney said Monday in a press conference at TD Garden. "Re-inserted back in in Game 2 against (the) Toronto (Maple Leafs), where he elevated our physical play. Was a big part of our hockey club on and off the ice.
"So, where it fits going forward, he's a part of our hockey club. I have discussions on different players, (and) he may or may not be part of that, but for the most part, he's a part of our hockey club.
"From a leadership standpoint, we know what he brings, and I think there's value there."
From a production standpoint, Backes had his worst season as a pro in 2018-19, tallying a career-low 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) over 70 games. He added two goals and three assists in the playoffs but played in just 15 of 24 postseason games for a deep Bruins club.
Backes' days of scoring 30-plus goals for the St. Louis Blues indeed are well behind him, but head coach Bruce Cassidy suggested the 35-year-old could have a role as a physical bottom-six forward in Boston.
"I thought he best fit in with (Sean) Kuraly/(Noel)Acciari/(Joakim) Nordstrom in that type of role," Cassidy said Monday. "At the end of the day, when Wagner, Acciari and him are all healthy, there's obviously competition for those spots, so sometimes he was in there, sometimes he wasn't. So, that's where I see his best contribution to the team."
Cassidy insisted Backes may have to battle for minutes next season. But as the Bruins attempt to bounce back from a crushing Cup loss, it appears they're willing to give the veteran center that chance.
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