SAN JOSE — Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who is in the final year of a 10-year, $67 million contract, confirmed Monday that he is negotiating his next deal on his own.
Putting trust in himself and the Capitals organization, Backstrom parted ways with his agent, Mark Levine, just before the season started. Backstrom said he ideally wanted to get a deal done before the season, but he is in continuing talks with Washington’s front office.
“I feel like I’ve been here long enough and I feel like I’ve seen everything, and I don’t think it’s anything to hide,” said Backstrom, who was drafted by the Capitals with the No. 4 pick in 2006 and made his NHL debut in 2007. “We will see what happens here moving forward. We will see what happens. I just believed that I wanted to do this myself. I feel like I have a good enough relationship with the organization that we can be honest and talk, and that is how it is.”
Asked about how he thinks he has fared so far as his own agent, the 32-year-old Swede said: “I’m out a contract next year, so I’m not doing that good, I think. We’ll see what happens.” He declined to get into specifics about which members of the front office he is speaking with, but he confirmed talks are happening.
“We’re talking, and we will see what they would like to do,” Backstrom said. “It is in their hands pretty much.”
Backstrom, who signed his current contract in May 2010, has talked about his desire to stay with the Capitals on multiple occasions. General Manager Brian MacLellan has also expressed the franchise’s desire to keep Backstrom in Washington. Backstrom’s résumé is pristine, including 891 points in 918 games, a key role on the 2018 Stanley Cup winner and a secure reputation as one of the best players in franchise history.
“We want him back,” MacLellan told reporters last week. “He’s a big part of our organization. We’re going to do whatever we can to get him back.”
Backstrom isn’t the first Washington player to negotiate his own contract. Alex Ovechkin negotiated his own deal when he signed his 13-year, $124 million contract extension in 2008. It was thefirst $100 million deal in NHL history, and the dynamic Russian was only 22 at the time. The only longer deal in NHL history at the time was goaltenderRick DiPietro’s 15-year contract signed with the New York Islanders in 2006.
And while Ovechkin might know a thing or two about contract negotiations — his parents were also in town for the final round of talks — Backstrom said he wouldn’t need his teammate’s services this time around.
“He wanted to be my agent, actually, but I said: ‘No. Thanks for the help, though,’ ” Backstrom said.
Before the season, Ovechkin said he didn’t even want to entertain the notion of not playing with Backstrom.
“You know, I think what we did for the city, what we did for the team, it’s going to be forever, right?” said Ovechkin, 34, whose contract expires after next season. “So I hope [Backstrom will] sign long term, and he will stay until the last day. His legacy is here, and I think he would not have more fun to play on different teams than here.”
But as with most contract negotiations, there are substantial hurdles. Not only do the Capitals have to deal with Backstrom working out his own contract, but goaltender Braden Holtby, 30, is also due for a new, lucrative contract next season. Holtby signed a five-year, $30.5 million deal in 2015 and has a résumé similar to that of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Florida Panthers in July.
MacLellan said the organization continues to be in talks with both players, and while it will be hard to fit both players on the roster again next season under the salary cap, he hasn’t ruled it out.
“It’s tough to say what the cap is going to be, and it’s tough to say what other personnel decisions you can make,” MacLellan said. “We’re projecting here something that’s difficult to project.”
Notes:After missing the Capitals’ past five games with an upper-body injury, Backstrom was medically cleared Monday and skated with the team in a white jersey, meaning he was eligible for full contact during practice.
He was not immediately declared in or out for Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
Forward Carl Hagelin was cleared to play and is off long-term injured reserve after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. He is slated to be in Washington’s lineup Tuesday against the Sharks.
Forward Chandler Stephenson was not on the ice during Monday’s practice, and Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said Stephenson would be involved in a transaction late Monday. With Hagelin back on the active roster, the team needs to clear room for his $2.75 million salary.
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