Regardless of the effort and grit Backes brings to the table, he'll continue to be measured by the annual $6 million cap hit he carries through the 2020-21 season. At 6-foot-3, 221-pounds, the 33-year-old still brings a power forward skill set to the table, but it’s notable that the 0.51 points per game he averaged in his first season with Boston was his lowest mark since 2007-08 (0.43), his first full season in the NHL. Now in the second year of his lucrative deal, the Bruins are looking for more than the 17 goals and 38 points that Backes delivered over 74 contests last season. His 30-goal days may be in the rearview mirror, but Backes can still deliver a degree of fantasy utility in deeper leagues as well as in formats where his PIM (69 last season) and hits (226) count.
After bidding adieu to productive winger Loui Eriksson in free agency the Bruins pulled something of a surprising move, inking Backes to a five-year deal worth $6 million annually that is slated to keep the 32-year-old forward in black and gold until he’s 38. Regardless of the long-range economic ramifications of the deal, in the short-term, adding the former St. Louis Blues captain looks like a great fit, as the versatile forward brings plenty of grit and leadership to the mix, with the 6-foot-3, 221-pounder’s physical style of play sure to be crowd-pleasing in Boston. Of course, with 727 NHL regular season games of rugged play under his belt already, which has led to Backes racking up 969 career PIM, it’s fair to wonder how long his prime as a player will extend. Though Backes has scored 31 goals twice in his NHL career, he hasn’t broken the 30-goal mark since 2007-08. One key question with regard to his 2016-17 role with the Bruins is where the team plans to line him up and who his linemates will end up being. Backes could either play center or wing, but if he mans the middle, he’d center the team’s No. 3 line as long as both David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are around and healthy. It’s also possible that he could patrol right wing on a line with either of the two aforementioned pivots
Backes remained one of the league's most productive power forwards in 2014-15, collecting 26 goals, 58 points, 227 hits, and 104 PIM. The multi-category output makes Backes an attractive target in any format that counts some of those peripheral statistics, but in more standard leagues, it's difficult to try and pin down his value. The Blues captain heads into this season with a surprising number of questions about his future role, as coach Ken Hitchcock has openly discussed moving Backes from center to right wing, or even out of the team's top-six forward ranks altogether, if one of the team’s young players or prospects steps up to earn a spot during training camp. It could be a motivational ploy to keep those guys (or Backes) hungry, but it would certainly harm the veteran's offensive potential not to play alongside an excellent scorer like Alex Steen. Backes' situation will bear monitoring during training camp, and he could start to slide down draft boards if he loses his hold on a top-six spot.
Although the spotlight seemed to shine on linemates Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie more often during the Blues’ 52-win season, Backes was the engine that made everything click, providing leadership, his usual reliable defense, and a superb 27 goals and 30 assists in 74 games. The 57-point output was the second-highest of Backes’ career, and a personal best was in sight until a broken toe limited his availability during the season’s final couple of weeks and seemed to compromise his effectiveness when he returned to action in the playoffs. Now presumably healthy entering his eighth season, Backes wouldn’t seem to have much room for growth in the scoring column, especially after the offseason signing of prized center Paul Stastny, who could cut into the captain’s ice time. Even with some regression in his point total, expect Backes to carry additional value in specialty leagues, as the feisty veteran is the rare top-line pivot who can score at a high rate and lay the lumber on the opposition (273 hits, 119 PIM in 2013-14).
Backes had a dismal lockout-shortened season last year. The two-time 30-goal scorer mustered only six tallies which amounts to just 10 goals in a full season. But a bounce back season in the forecast. The addition of Maxim Lapierre should allow Backes to focus more on offense and less on defending the other team's top scorers. And the Blues also added center Derek Roy, which has sparked talk of moving Backes to the wing. That could spell multi-position eligibility for a rejuvenated Backes and a return to consistency in all of the fantasy categories.
The captain returns to anchor the Blues' top line. Backes entered the NHL as a right winger, but now brings the same power forward mentality to the center position. He led the Blues with 24 goals last season and tied for the team lead with 54 points. It doesn't really matter who lines up with Backes on the first line, as he has established an on-ice rapport with several wingers. He doesn't get a lot of ink, but Backes produces in several categories while maintaining a good plus-minus ratio for the Blues. He'll be a safe, if under the radar, selection in all fantasy formats, especially leagues that reward penalty minutes.
Backes re-emerged as a scoring threat on the Blues top line in 2010-11, after a 14-goal drop the previous season. He also joined the 30-30-30 club, scoring 31 goals with 31 assists and a plus-32. We’re seeing a maturing Backes, who showed a good two-way game and reduced the number of penalty minutes taken for the second straight season while still amongst the league leaders in Hits. He’s central to the Blues going forward after signing a five-year extension and is likely to be named a captain this season. Whether he remains at center or right wing, Backes will see first line minutes as well as time on the power play.
It's looking like Backes' 31 goals in 2008-09 was a spike year after he fell back to 17 tallies while his shooting percentage dropped 4.5% last season. At 26, the U.S. Olympian is still young and he's entering the final year of his contract, so there's youth and motivation on his side. The Blues did nothing to upgrade its scoring punch in the offseason, so Backes returns as a top-six forward, most likely skating right wing on the second line.
Backes, 25, is another in an impressive corps of young forwards on the Blues, though he didn't come with the pedigree of the others. He finished second behind Brad Boyes in points (54) and goals (31) in 2008-09. His was a season which, much like the Blues finishing in sixth place, was not expected. He really came alive when coach Andy Murray switched him from right-wing to center. He may not be a big gun this time next year, but he's earned the playing time and the chance to center the first line. His game isn't pretty, but there's value in scoring power forwards. Backes amassed a team-high 165 minutes in penalties (ninth in NHL) and is gold in leagues that reward PIM.
Backes isn't a finesse player which tempers his upside in fantasy leagues but his physical presence will gain him more ice time and responsibility as he enters his 3rd year with the Blues. He hasn’t shown the skill that teammate Keith Tkachuk showed at the same age but they play a similar game and Backes should see more time in the slot on the power play this year, especially if Tkachuk doesn’t produce.
Backes collected a goal and an assist in his first two games with the Blues last season and never looked back, en route to a respectable 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) and a plus-six rating for the year. Don't expect too much more out of Backes this season, as his ice time should be more limited with the arrival of guys like Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes. But Backes has proven he has what it takes to be a top-six forward in the NHL, and should be on your longer-term fantasy radar.
Backes is expected to spend most of this season in the minors. He'll be a regular NHL'er someday but he's still developing.