One of the most coveted potential restricted free agents will not have his contract expire on the Washington Capitals watch, as Nicklas Backstrom has now agreed to a brand new contract extension that will keep him in the US capital for a long time. Backstrom has reportedly agreed to a 10-year, $67 million deal, which keeps the math exceptionally simple against the salary cap. Backstrom's deal will be worth $6.7 million against the salary cap for each season, which is a pretty substantial hit, but a bargain at the same time.
Backstrom has become one of the league's most premier pivots in the past couple of seasons, jumping up to 5th spot in pool scoring thanks to a huge season of 101 points, including 33 goals and 68 assists. As a centre, Backstrom ranked 3rd in scoring, behind both Henrik Sedin and Sidney Crosby and he ranked 3rd in the NHL in assists with his 68, behind Sedin and Joe Thornton. That means Backstrom is in some elite company now and it's not just because he plays with Alex Ovechkin. Even when Ovechkin was out of the Capitals line-up for a few games at a time, Backstrom continued to pile up his numbers, so he's earned plenty of his own credibility in 2010.
As I had mentioned in the Pool Outlook for the Capitals a week ago, they do have some space to play with in terms of their salary cap number. You could easily argue that Backstrom is a guy who could easily earn more than $7 mllion a year, especially if he had the ability to go to unrestricted free agency at this point in his career. Fortunately for the Capitals, they had him as a restricted free agent and convinced him to sign on for the long-term and a more reasonable cap number. Now, the team has an annual cap hit of $43.6 million for 13 players and now they can address more of their needs with all their big superstars in place.
I am definitely a fan of this deal, because I think there is some more room to move for Nicklas Backstrom along his career. If the Capitals can sneak through some more talent onto the other wing for himself and Ovechkin or get another solid second centre for the team to take some of the focus away, Backstrom could be looking at 120-point seasons as a pivot, especially with his goal scoring touch. At a cap hit of $6.7 million, he's currently tied for 20th in cap hits for 2011 (thus far) and scores at a top five pace. Great deal, in my opinion.