According to reports, the St. Louis Blues are struggling to re-sign winger David Backes. Backes is said to be asking for the same type of contract that was given out to Vancouver Canucks second-line center Ryan Kesler, in the range of four years at $5 million a season, according to Andy Strickland.
The question remains, does Backes deserve that type of money?
Is he a 25-plus goal-scorer? Does he make players around him better? Those questions remain to be seen, but what is certain is that he's an integral part to the Blues roster and locker room.
There are conflicting reports talking about Backes' availability, some say the Blues want to re-sign him at all costs, while others believe that the Blues could have a set limit for Backes, and if he asks for more, then he'll become expendable.
The reasons behind Backes' availability tie into the other contracts that are expiring at the end of this year and next. Among players that will need new contracts during that time will be King City native Alex Pietrangelo, former first-overall draft choice Erik Johnson, center T.J. Oshie, checker Jay McClement, center Patrick Berglund, David Perron, and lastly, former Maple Leaf draft pick Brad Boyes.
The Blues have a large amount of players to make decisions on in the next few years. Backes, one of the few Blues who will be an unrestricted free agent at years end, appears he could be the odd man out in Missouri.
If the reports are true that he is looking for a $5 million deal, red flags may start to wave in front of GM Doug Armstrong. Despite scoring 31 goals two years ago, has Backes' play the last two years garnered a full 100 percent pay raise? That's a question Armstrong will have to answer for you.
Not withstanding the impact of re-signing those players, the Blues are still in search for a main investor right now for the club, which further complicates matters and adds to the financial issues facing the club.
Now onto how he ties into the Leafs.
The Leafs have made it no secret that they are looking to add some scoring punch to their squad. GM Brain Burke has made it known the team will be looking to add offensive firepower, and that they already have a few good deals already on the table.
Some names I have heard that could be available are David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Jamie Langenbrunner, Dainius Zubrus, and even Jeff Carter, according to the Globe and Mail, may all be available.
At 6'3" 225 pounds, Backes would easily become the Leafs largest forward other than maybe Colton Orr. Backes is one of the tougher players in the NHL and is exactly the type of player Brian Burke builds his team around. Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf—the list could go on.
Also, having played on the US Olympic team, Backes and Burke are familiar with each other.
Since Backes expires at the end of the year, if the Leafs can acquire him, I highly doubt they'll be giving up high-end young players like Nazem Kadri or Luke Schenn.
Backes, if not re-signed by the Blues, will head into the offseason as probably the best free agent center available and will most certainly be on the Leafs' radar.
If Backes is dealt, possibly a package could be centered around Tyler Bozak or Nikolai Kulemin, and a mid-level prospect like James Reimer could be enough to get a deal done. I am not a general manager of each club, but I feel it could be a fair package for both sides.
If Backes remains unsigned going forward, look for the Backes to the Maple Leafs rumors to start spreading like wildfire and picking up in the next few months.