When Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom agreed to his five-year, $46-million deal with the only NHL team he has ever played for, he did so in general manager Brian MacLellan’s office.
Backstrom, who was negotiating his new deal without an agent, had met with MacLellan in multiple places throughout contract talks since October — on the road in hotel rooms, in MacLellan’s office and sometimes even after practice. But when the final contract structure was agreed upon, it was only fitting to be in a city both parties hope will be the last of Swede’s NHL career.
“I had one goal in mind, and that was to stay here,” Backstrom said at a Tuesday news conference announcing his new deal. “I think personally, I always dreamed of finishing my career here, and hopefully that will be the case. I love the city; I love the fans and love the organization so it was no doubt in my mind. It would be really weird to put on a different jersey.”
The fourth overall pick by the Capitals in the 2006 NHL draft, Backstrom is the franchise’s career assists leader and one of two players to record at least 900 points with the Capitals. Frequent linemate Alex Ovechkin is the other. Backstrom is the only active player in the NHL that has recorded at least 50 assists in six consecutive seasons. Last season, he became the 26th player to reach that mark; of the other 25, 23 are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This season, playing on the last year of a 10-year, $67-million contract, he has 35 points in 39 games this season for the Capitals, who lead the Metropolitan Division with 67 points.
“If you look at it from the reverse side, if he was going somewhere else, if we didn’t make a deal, like how do you replace Nick Backstrom,” Capitals president Dick Patrick said. “They don’t grow on trees.”
And while Backstrom re-signing is good for the Capitals’ foreseeable future, he said he believes this contract will not be his last as a Capital. He called it a “good start,” and he will see what direction the team wants to go in five years. But for now, one of the franchise’s longest-tenured players is locked in and eager for another Stanley Cup run.
“I am a born and raised Capital, and that is where I want to finish,” Backstrom said.
Backstrom and MacLellan met at least eight times during the negotiation process, and as he stated very early on during talks, Backstrom said he enjoyed being able to learn the ins and outs of the process. He said he would recommend negotiating one’s own contract to other players but added that at times, it was a challenge to balance playing while also thinking about it.