Choices might be made for David Backes, Bruins’ free agents
Standing in front of a cleaned out locker at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday, David Backes couldn’t say what is to come for him and his future with the Bruins.
All he knew was it was June 14, his wedding anniversary.
“So I am going to spend some time with my wife tonight,” Backes said. “Re-learn everything she wants me to learn and have a beverage with her and look into her eyes and re-kindle that relationship. She has done a lot over the last eight weeks, especially in the playoffs, but all season, dealing with me and taking care of our family.”
Soon enough, Backes knows, the deep and difficult conversations about what comes next for his career need to start.
Backes, 35, did not play in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final, watching from the press box as a healthy scratch while his former team took home the Cup. Backes remains under contract for two more seasons with a cap hit of $6 million, but he could be one of several Bruins who do not return next season.
“I am not naive,” Backes said. “If you have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, you put your best lineup out there and try to win the game. I wasn’t one of those guys.”
Backes played in 70 games in the regular season, but only 15 of the 24 in the postseason.
He could leave in a variety of ways. One could be via trade, but he has a modified no-trade clause, limiting general manager Don Sweeney to eight teams on a list submitted by Backes. A trade can become easier if Backes is willing to adjust that list.
The Bruins could also buy him out during the two-week period that starts Saturday.
“If I am going somewhere else, which I hope to not be . . . this is a hell of a group in here,” Backes said.
Backes cited the winning pedigree and culture as two reasons for which he would like to stick around. He knows Boston could be a good spot for him to accomplish one of the last goals of his career — winning a Stanley Cup.
He is just not sure if that decision is his.
“Whether or not there’s another crack for me, I truly don’t know,” Backes said.
If the Bruins don’t keep Backes, it won’t be because of how he handled being a healthy scratch. Backes remained engaged, often sharing his observations with teammates after games. There was no moping, forward Sean Kuraly said.
“He was just the leader we all know and expect him to be,” Kuraly said. “It was pretty cool to see.”
Forward Noel Acciari, soon to be a free agent, “would love” to return
Acciari, 27, realized while answering a question that Boston offers exactly what he is looking for.
Acciari commended the locker room and coaching staff, calling it a special place that has it all.
“I am looking for . . . this family,” Acciari said.
He still plans to take his time and look over his options. It’s not every day that he has a chance to pick where he will play. Part of it is that he wants to see what else remains out there. He has never known anything but this area, having played college hockey for Providence, playing for AHL Providence, and then the Bruins.
“Boston has been my home my whole life, so I guess we will see what happens,” Acciari said.
Marcus Johansson, another soon-too-be free agent, was non-committal on future
Johansson, 28, was acquired from the Devils on Feb. 25. He was asked straight up if he wants to come back to Boston. He didn’t give a yes or a no.
“I have loved it here,” Johansson said. “It has been unbelievable. So we will talk and see what happens.”
Johansson proved to be a valuable in the playoffs, tallying four goals and seven assists over 22 games.
In the process, he may have placed himself out of the Bruins’ price range.
Johansson said he plans to talk to Boston first before he tests free agency, but he is willing to listen to what Sweeney has to offer.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask might try to help with the pitch, too.
“He was a great, great part of the team,” Rask said. “I would love to see him back. Does he have a contract or not?”
Nope. He is an unrestricted free agent.
“UFA?” Rask replied. “I’ve got to talk to him. See if he will take a hometown discount and come back.”