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Nicklas Backstrom Undergoes Career-Risking Surgery

Nicklas Backstrom Surgery

Washington Capitals winger Nicklas Backstrom underwent hip resurfacing surgery on Friday. His return date is unknown.

Nicklas Backstrom Surgery Leaves Uncertain Future

Backstrom only managed 47 games this past season due to recurring pain in his hip. This is his second surgical procedure, following arthroscopic surgery on his hip in 2015. He missed training camp for 2021-22 and another 28 games, first playing in mid-December. It seems the rest wasn’t enough for him, missing another game in April for “personal maintenance”.

Bäckström has been a vital part of the Capitals’ team for his entire 15-season career. Drafted 4th overall in 2006, he joined the NHL team the next season, coming second to Patrick Kane in Calder Trophy voting. In that first season, he scored 14 goals and 69 points as Washington’s top centre. His fit with Alex Ovechkin was immediate, boosting both players. In his 15 years, he has averaged nearly a point-per-game, scoring 260 goals and 1005 points in 158 regular-season games.

What This Means

Last season, even while skating through pain, Bäckström had 6 goals and 31 points. He contributed in the playoffs as well, scoring twice and getting six points in as many games. He still got his power-play time both in the regular season and playoffs, but Evgeny Kuznetsov has taken his place as the top centre. Kuznetsov isn’t as good, but he can take top billing beside Ovechkin – and that is the most important question to the Capitals.

Behind Kuznetsov, though, is a problem. Being able to put Nicklas Bäckström’s $9.2 million cap hit on long-term injured reserve will help find a replacement for this season, but after? He has three years remaining for a team that will be hard-pressed to hold their playoff spot next season. Finding a player anywhere near as skilled who they can also afford will prove extremely difficult. But not finding one leaves Kuznetsov backed by Lars Eller and Nic Dowd. And that centre depth does not a championship contender make.


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