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A Must Keep: The Evolution of Mikael Backlund

Arguably the best forward last season for the Calgary Flames was Mikael Backlund. He proved to be a legitimate No. 2 center who played the best hockey of his career so far. Last season Backlund produced a career-best 22 goals and 53 points, as he was more like a No. 1 center dressed up as a No. 2. For all of last season, he was anchoring the second line, but most would argue that was the best line start to finish for the Flames.

Paired with #1 Center Sean Monahan, Backlund helps to form a vital 1-2 punch up the middle that allows the Flames to keep pace in the division. The division is tough, as Anaheim has Getzlaf and Kesler, the Sharks with Pavelski and Thornton, the Kings come with Kopitar and Carter and the Oilers counter with McDavid and Draisitl. A tight division to say the least. It shows the importance of having Backlund in the fold. Which makes this the perfect time for the Flames to sign Backs to a contract extension, but what would the deal look like?

In the final year of a three-year deal at an annual average value of $3.575 million, Backlund is poised to make $5-$6 million for multiple years. How long should they make the extension for? It would be wise for Flames GM Brad Treliving to lock up the 10 year veteran before free agency hits in the 2018 off-season. Backlund has proved to be a valuable teammate as well. For proof of Backlund’s impact on his line mates just look at Bouma, Colborne, Bennett and now Matthew Tkachuk. The first three on that list had career years skating with Backs, while two or the three have the money from the nice raise they received from those seasons. The latter a rookie who was undoubtedly impactful while learning to play at the NHL level beside his centermen.

Darren Haynes (flames beat writer) stated “On the ice, he was third in team scoring, not that far behind $6-million-plus first liners Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Meanwhile, he also finished fourth in voting for the 2016-17 Selke trophy (best defensive forward) and on my ballot, had him No. 2 behind Ryan Kesler. He’s the epitome of the 200-foot player. 5 for 5 contract.” This echoes my thoughts and the ball park of the contract I would offer.

Mikael Backlund is a picture perfect #2 center and a perfect fit on the Calgary Flames. When a player so rare like Backlund that shuts down the opposition’s top players, can still put up 20/25 goal, with 50-plus points comes around; you do whatever you can to keep that player in the fold, for as long has possible. A point, I am sure, that is not lost on the Flames’ brass.

 

Photo Credits: Calgary Sun
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