Nicklas Backstrom's status was declared to be week-to-week by the Capitals on Thursday as he continues to recover from a hip injury. He missed the start of training camp and, according to an update from general manager Brian MacLellan, there is no clear indication on when he may be ready to return.
“Rehabbing an injury that he’s had for a while, struggled with it in the playoffs, rehabbing it now and we are going to see where it goes here," MacLellan said on Capitals media day.
Backstrom was dealing with the injury at the end of the 2021 season and he was expected to recover sometime in the offseason. MacLellan also said it was not a surgical issue so it seems that option was not on the table. The offseason, however, is now over and there is still no timetable for a return.
“I think there was a recovery period then went into rehab and maybe it is taking a little longer than everyone expected, but I think he is on the road now to recovery," MacLellan said.
For now, Backstrom's availability for the start of the season is unknown. But it is important to keep in mind that even when he is healthy, the injury lingered all summer affecting his offseason preparation for 2021-22.
When asked if the injury meant Backstrom was off the ice all summer, MacLellan said, “Pretty much yes.”
Center is a position in which the Caps are fairly thin without Backstrom. While the team does have Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller and Nic Dowd, it lacks depth at the position.
Kuznetsov and Eller are likely to be the team's top two centers with Backstrom out. As for who comes into the bottom-six, Mike Sgarbossa is the most experienced option with 55 NHL games. There are also prospects Brian Pinho, Garrett Pilon, Beck Malenstyn or the highly-touted Connor McMichael who is believed to be the top prospect in the organization.
The Caps may need to call on one or more of those players to play in the regular season as it waits for Backstrom's return.
"It's important that [Backstrom] gets to as close to 100% as possible before we insert him into the lineup," MacLellan said. "I think you see, with the compressed schedule that we've had over the last couple seasons that there's injuries that need to be maintained. Especially if you're an older player, that you take the time to get it healed properly and don't insert the player into the lineup too early."