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2016 NHL Free Agency: David Backes Could help the Red Wings, but there are better options

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings have had a true emphasis on size over the past few years. Whether or not you think this is dumb, the team wants to be bigger, they want to play with more of a physical edge. Is this a good thing? Listen, I’ve made it abundantly clear that architecting a roster full of knuckle-dragging buffoons is a bad idea. Now, that doesn’t mean you can find big players who have actual skill, and purpose.

David Backes, the 6-foot-2, 221-pound center looks to be hitting the open market come July 1st, as the St. Louis Blues haven’t appeared to table an offer yet. Since Detroit has had so much cap space cleared up after dealing away Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona at the draft, Backes will certainly be on their radar if they cannot land any bigger names. I have mixed feelings on this. Backes is 32 years old, which means he’s not going to get any better, and the contract terms he will be asking for are something I think the Red Wings need to stay away from in a player who is exiting his prime years.

David Backes compared to other Red Wings centers
Prashanth Iyer

The numbers tell us that Backes would be a more-than-serviceable top-six player, but again, he’s 32. It’s highly unlikely that he finds the Fountain of Youth and becomes better over the next few years.

Should the Red Wings target him?

Should they? Sure. Will they? Most definitely. Backes fits the mold of what the Red Wings want — Big, veteran two-way center that can be a weapon as a net-front presence on the power-play. Backes found a lot of success in that role for the Blues, and it’s something the Red Wings have been completely unable to figure out for a very long time. The way I look at it, you acquire Backes and you keep him limited on 5v5, and use him with the first power play unit in front of the net. He’s really good at picking up rebounds and “cleaning up the garbage,” if you will. Detroit’s power play was downright putrid last season for a myriad of reasons, one of them being the fact that they use the net-front guy as a key role, yet don’t have a player that can do it correctly. Backes could change that.

What about the contract?

I’ll say it right now, two years is the absolute maximum I am going to be able to stomach. Preferably, you sign him to a one-year deal with a high AAV, and call it a day. I doubt Backes would take that, as there are likely going to be teams willing to give him plenty of term to appease both sides. The Red Wings are still in the rebuild-on-the-fly phase, they already have a handful of ugly contracts to players who won’t be productive now, or when they get older. The last thing they need is another deal like that hanging around.


I’m going to say this - I think Backes could help, but the contract terms he is going to ask for aren’t what the Red Wings need right now. If he were willing to take a one, maybe even stretch it to two-year deal, then sure. No, he will definitely get four or more years, and the Wings simply cannot afford to have another declining veteran hanging around while young guns wait for their time to shine. If you ask me, I think now that Stamkos is gone, it’s time to commit to what we already have and know. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and it starts a new era of Red Wings hockey.