Top Players Capitals Should Pursue Amid Rumors for Nicklas Backstrom Replacements

Jake RillJune 24, 2022

Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller (9) plays against the Nashville Predators during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

For 15 years, Nicklas Backstrom has been among the Washington Capitals' leaders. The center broke into the NHL in 2007, and he immediately gave the Caps another top scorer alongside superstar Alex Ovechkin.

But several of Washington's core players are aging, including the 34-year-old Backstrom. And he's also been dealing with injuries. During the 2021-22 season, he was limited to 47 games because of a hip injury. The ailment still hasn't gone away, either, as Backstrom underwent surgery on his left hip last week.

Could the end of Backstrom's career be coming soon?

“I want to quit on my own terms and not be forced to quit because of injuries,” Backstrom told Gefle Dagblad's Daniel Sandstrom (h/t Magnus Cadelin of Russian Machine Never Breaks). “We’re looking for a solution at the moment, and I’m just looking ahead.”

But it seems highly possible that Backstrom's injury may impact when/if he'll play for the Capitals during the 2022-23 season. He still has three seasons remaining on his contract, though his health could dictate how much he plays over that stretch.

With the uncertainty now surrounding Backstrom, it's not surprising that there have been rumors of Washington potentially having interest in some top offensive players around the league. Even if the Caps get more out of Backstrom than they expect, it would help to have another top standout to lessen some of Backstrom's workload.

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, there are already two players who could be on Washington's radar: Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller and Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (who will be a free agent this summer).

"I’ve heard Kadri’s name connected to the Capitals. I’ve heard Miller’s name connected to the Capitals," Friedman recently said on Donnie and Dhali – The Team (h/t Chris Cerullo and Ian Oland of Russian Machine Never Breaks). "I think Washington’s just starting to figure out, 'What are we going to do here?' I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the kind of guy that’s on their radar."

Kadri, a 13-year NHL veteran, is boosting his stock with a strong postseason for the Avalanche. He's tallied seven goals and eight assists in 15 playoff games, and the 31-year-old scored the game-winning goal in Colorado's victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.

But Kadri was having a career season for the Avs even before their deep playoff run. In 71 regular-season games, he collected a career-high 87 points with 28 goals and 59 assists.

Miller is also coming off a big year, as he tallied a career-high 99 points on 32 goals and 67 assists (both career bests) in 80 games for the Canucks. The 10-year NHL veteran has spent the past three seasons with Vancouver, and he still has one more year remaining on his contract.

Although the Capitals would have to make a trade if they wanted to bring in Miller, it seems that may be something the Canucks would be willing to consider. TSN's Darren Dreger recently reported that Miller is one of the players Vancouver is "interested in listening" to offers for.

Miller is still only 29 (two years younger than Kadri) so he's a better potential target for Washington. So not only did Miller put up better numbers than Kadri this past season, but he could also be a stronger long-term fit.

However, Kadri would also be a great addition to the Caps' attack, especially with the valuable experience he's gained during the postseason. Washington has been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round each of the past four years, so it needs to bring in players who can help the team make deeper runs moving forward.

Either Miller or Kadri should be a strong fill-in for Backstrom, who could still play a role for the Capitals himself next season. But if the Canucks' asking price for Miller is too high, it may be better for the Caps to pursue Kadri in free agency.