Backlund's future with Flames could hinge on captaincy decision: report

May 6 2023, 8:25 pm

The Calgary Flames have some major decisions ahead of them.

After a disappointing season where they missed the playoffs and got rid of both head coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Brad Treliving, the Flames are in full “taking inventory mode” for the bulk of their roster.

Calgary missed the final Western Conference playoff berth by just two points, but won just 38 games, tied for 21st in the NHL.

One of the decisions the team has set in front of them is what exactly to do with franchise staple Mikael Backlund. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests Backlund’s future in Calgary could hinge on if gets the opportunity to be named the team’s captain as soon as this summer.

“I think one thing the Flames are trying to get a handle on… now that they’ve made the coaching change: what does this mean for some of the players on their roster?” Friedman said on Friday’s episode of the 32 Thoughts podcast. “This is something that has been out there in the past, Backlund really wants to be the captain of the Calgary Flames.”

Backlund has one year left on his contract, a six-year deal worth $5.35 million a year that’s set to take him to free agency in the summer of 2024. He currently has a modified no-trade clause, allowing him to pick a list of 10 teams Calgary can trade him to, as well as the ability to sign a new multi-year contract extension as of July 1.

Backlund has spent his entire 15-year career in Calgary after being selected 24th overall by the franchise back in 2007. He was the third-oldest player on the team’s roster this past season, behind only Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis, and put up 19 goals and 37 assists for a total of 56 points.

“He’s been there a long time, I think it’s very meaningful for him,” Friedman added. “I have also heard that the players on the team know that, they recognize that, and they feel that he would be an excellent choice.”

Calgary has not had a captain for the last two seasons after former Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL expansion draft. This past season, Backlund was an assistant captain along with Chris Tanev and Elias Lindholm, while he also wore an “A” each of the previous four seasons with Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.

“He’s a guy that I think a lot of those players really think could fit the bill in that role… there was definitely a feeling this year that they were missing, at least somebody in the captain’s role to act as a buffer. I’m curious to see if with his extension, potentially, [him becoming captain] becomes part of the conversation.”

The full episode is available below.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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