PITTSBURGH — Provided the Bruins don’t find a landing spot for David Backes in the NHL trade market, the expectation among Bruins management is that the veteran winger will report to AHL Providence upon the completion of his current 10-day respite.
Backes, who cleared waivers as of Saturday afternoon, has not commented publicly since being placed on waivers late Friday morning.
Club president Cam Neely, here for Sunday’s 4-3 matinee loss to the Penguins, said he does not believe Backes, 35, will call it quits.
“I don’t think he has a mind-set of retirement,” said Neely. “He’s a very proud man, and a professional. I still have the feeling he thinks he can help, so we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Backes, a 14-year veteran who increasingly became a spare part in the first half of this season, has the remainder of this season and all of next on the guaranteed five-year, $30 million deal he signed as a free agent July 1, 2016.
In hard dollars — often different than how cap figures are calculated — he is due only slightly less than $4.5 million because he already has been paid out some 85 percent of the contract’s full value.
Now that he has been waived, Backes’s cap figure on Boston’s books has been reduced from $6 million to $4.925 million, reflecting the CBA-defined discount of $1.075 million.
If Backes remains a non-roster player for the next five weeks, GM Don Sweeney will have that extra $1.075 million in wiggle room in the days leading up to the Jan. 24 trade deadline. However, that number could be reduced if the Bruins’ total payroll, which now is impacted by the club’s LTIR (Long Term Injured Reserve) status, changes over the next five weeks.
If Backes were to report to Providence, the earliest he would likely suit up for the AHL Spoked-Bs is their Jan. 31 game at Binghamton (the same night the varsity returns from the break with a game in Winnipeg).
Wade Arnott, the agent who negotiated Backes’s $30 million deal, has not responded to two emails requesting comment from him or Backes.
Ritchie pitches in
Brett Ritchie, waived down to Providence within 48 hours of Tuesday’s loss in Columbus, scored two goals in Saturday’s win at Bridgeport.
“And nine shots, too, by the way,” noted Neely, clearly keeping track of Ritchie’s production.
In his 27 games with the varsity prior to being demoted, Ritchie delivered a meager 2-4—6 line. The Bruins signed him to a one-year, $1 million free agent deal in July, never expecting that he would deliver two goals a game. Just one a week would have been considered wildly successful. A line of, say, 4-11—15 in the first half would have kept him with the varsity.
By Neely’s eye, the 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound Ritchie could find his way back to Boston, but he’ll have to show some pop on the scoresheet and pluck on his shifts.
“We’re not going to close the door on anything,” said Neely. “If we feel there’s a player in Providence who can help us, we’ll certainly have him come up and try to help us here again.”
Neely noted that Ritchie appeared more with it (“coming along”) in games prior to his demotion, but he needed to show more.
“We just didn’t feel he was getting inside the dots as much,” said Neely, who crafted his Hall-of-Fame career as a behemoth down low, inside the dots. “He needed to get more shots off, and create a little more urgency in his own game — we just thought we might see a little bit more of that.”
McAvoy still scoreless
Charlie McAvoy, still without a goal for the Bruins through his 47 games, at least had his shooting shoes on here vs. the Penguins. He fired a total of 11 times — the Bruins had 77 attempts — and landed four of those on net. He missed the net on five chances and had two others blocked. Torey Krug led the Boston effort with five strikes on Matt Murray, who blanked the Bruins on 23 straight chances after falling into a 3-0 deficit on David Pastrnak’s goal at 15:07 of the third period . . . Pastrnak left here with 37 goals for the season, still No. 1 in the league. He needs but one more to equal his career-high of 38 that he posted last season . . . Tuukka Rask (concussed) is feeling better, according to coach Bruce Cassidy . . . No chance of seeing defensemen Kevan Miller or Connor Clifton anytime soon . . . No. 2 pivot David Krejci was sidelined for a second straight game. It’s possible he’ll skate in Monday’s late-morning workout in Brighton . . . The Boston power play was blanked (o for 2) and is now 0 for 10 over the last three games. The Bruins went three straight without a power-play goal in early December, but that was an 0-for-9 run.