David Backes no longer has to worry whether he’ll get another shot at playing in the NHL.
The 35-year-old forward was freed from what Backes referred to as “purgatory” on Friday, when the Boston Bruins traded him to the Anaheim Ducks. In freeing up most of Backes’ significant salary-cap hit, Boston also gave up a first-round draft pick and defensive prospect Axel Andersson to acquire forward Ondrej Kase.
The deal was completed three days before the NHL’s trade deadline and marked the end of a monthlong stretch of uncertainty for Backes, which began with him declining to report to AHL Providence after being waived by the Bruins.
“It’s been a roller coaster of, ‘Am I just going to be dying a slow death here or is this something where I’m going to get another opportunity,’” Backes said during a conference call. “I was praying, actually praying, to get an opportunity where I could reassert myself and show that I still belong in the NHL.”
Backes hasn’t played since logging 8 1/2 minutes of ice time in Boston’s 5-4 win over Winnipeg on Jan. 9. He’s been off the ice for three weeks as part of an agreement he and Bruins reached to allow Backes to not have to report to the minors.
He expects it will take a week to get back into playing shape, and added: “I’m hoping to expedite that with that new energy I’ve got, the fire that I feel that’s lit throughout my whole being.”
A combination of injuries and being a healthy scratch led to Backes playing in just 16 games this season, scoring one goal and adding two assists. That’s a considerable drop for a player who’s topped 20 goals in six of his previous 13 seasons, the first 10 with St. Louis.
Backes is in the fourth year of a five-year, $30 million deal he signed with Boston in free agency. Boston also agreed to pick up 25% of the contract as part of the trade.
In Kase, the league-leading Bruins added a forward who filled various top- and secondary line roles during his first four seasons in Anaheim.
“Odrej is a young, solid player, been a significant producer while 5-on-5, has shown versatility to be able to adapt his game and complement different lines,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said.
Kase has missed the past five games with flulike symptoms and won’t join the Bruins until they return home after completing a four-game road swing at Calgary on Friday, and Vancouver on Saturday.
The 24-year-old from the Czech Republic has seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 49 games with the Ducks this season. Overall, he has 43 goals and 53 assists for 96 points in 198 career games with Anaheim.
“I’m coming at this with a full heart and ready to conquer and give everything I’ve got to each situation,” he said.
“I don’t know what the last chapter will be. Hopefully, it’s on my own terms and a glorious moment in Anaheim,” Backes added. “But it may not be, and I’m ready for that, too. But I’m grateful to have another opportunity.”
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