December 4, 2023

Niklas Backstrom He is expected to return to play for the Washington Capitals next season after recovering from resurfacing surgery on his left thigh.

However, when the center is ready to play remains uncertain.

General Manager Brian McClellan said Backstrom faces a lengthy recovery after surgery at the ANCA clinic in Belgium on June 17, but the Capitals are hoping he can make a comeback after dealing with pain in his hip the past two seasons.

“I think everyone, the coaches and doctors, are happy with the surgery and its results,” McClellan said on Wednesday. “I think Nick’s intention is to come back and play sometime this year and the schedule for that will be uncertain, to be determined with his recovery. We’ll monitor that as we move forward and make a decision later in the season.”

Backstrom is the second in the history of Capitals behind the front Alex Ovechkin With 1,011 points (264 goals, 747 assists) in 1,058 games over 15 seasons of the National Hockey League. The 34-year-old missed his first 28 games of the season to rehabilitate his hip joint and came back to score 31 points (six goals and 25 assists) in 47 games.

The Capitals plans to fill the gap created by Backstrom’s absence internally with young players Conor McMichael21, Hendrix Laberand 20 and Alexi Protas, 21, is among the options. McMichael has scored 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 68 games for Washington as a rookie in the National Hockey League this season. Protas scored nine points (three goals and six assists) in 33 games before returning to Hershey’s MHL. Lapierre scored one goal in six games before returning to Acadée Bathurst from the Quebec New Hockey League.

McClellan said adding an experienced position through agency or free trade is unlikely due to salary cap limitations. Backstrom has three seasons left on a five-year, $46 million ($9.2 million average annual value) contract signed in 2020. His placement in a long-term injured reserve will provide temporary salary cap relief while he’s away.

“It’s not like us [will] McClellan said, “Go out and sign a player contract worth $9 million, and we expect Nick to come back at some point. Until that’s over, we’re planning for him to come back.”

Head to the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Center in Montreal on Thursday for Round 1 (7pm ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 Friday (11am ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and starting the free agency on July 13, MacLellan reiterated his intention to try adding a veteran goalkeeper. Ilya Samsonov (23-12-5, 3.02 goal-to-average, .896 savings percentage, three shots) and Vitik Vanishek (20-12-6, 2.67 GAA, .908 savings, four closings) are both inconsistent this season.

Samsonov, 25, and Vaneshk, 26, could become a restricted free agent by arbitration rights, and McClellan said both would receive eligible offers while the Capitals looked at other goalkeepers.

“We’ll explore business opportunities there, look at the free agent market, and then analyze upcoming RFA contracts for both,” McClellan said. “Make a decision based on all of these things.”

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