The Carolina Hurricanes are in the market for a centre and they’re nosing around the Calgary Flames and Mikael Backlund.
The Hurricanes have inquired about the availability of the veteran pivot, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
“Last night I did something with TNT that we carried on our network. I mentioned Backlund’s name and, not that I think he’s getting traded or anything like that, but I do think the Hurricanes have spoken to the Flames about what they’re thinking,” Friedman said on The Jeff Marek Show early Thursday.
“I know that the Hurricanes are looking for a center, and I don’t know that Calgary’s willing to do that. You look up and down at Calgary’s roster and I see two guys that make sense for Carolina. One of them they’ve already had is (Elias) Lindholm, the other one they have is Backlund. These are both great players.
“I don’t know what the likelihood is and I know it would be expensive, but I think Carolina is looking for a centre.”
Backlund is in the midst of a career year with the Flames.
The 33-year-old is projected for an NHL career-high 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists), which would eclipse his previous best of 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) set in 2016-17.
“I feel like I wanted to build off how I played in the playoffs last year, and it felt like last year’s regular season was an off-year regular season for me,” Backlund, whose six-year, $32.1 million contract that pays him $5.35 million annually expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, told media Thursday.
“I wanted to show this season I could still be a really good player in this league and I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I can be a good player. That’s been my mentality.
“I’ve always said I wanted to be like a fine, nice red wine. That’s why I keep pushing myself.
“I always push myself and always strive to be better.”
“It’s always a fun game to play.”
Mikael Backlund shares his thoughts on tonight’s game vs. the Leafs. pic.twitter.com/kAbDiCE9G1
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 2, 2023
Backlund has anchored one of the best lines in the league this season alongside wingers Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman. Collectively, the trio leads the NHL in expected-goals-for percentage at 74.1% and Corsi percentage at 68.9%.
The Flames, however, are five points behind the Winnipeg Jets and Seattle Kraken for the first and second wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference and trail the Edmonton Oilers by seven points for third in the Pacific Division.
The results have put general manager Brad Treliving in a tough spot.
“I think Calgary is one of those teams (that) could do nothing, could do something and I know that sounds really simple and stupid — and I am simple and stupid so I can understand why people would think that,” Friedman said. “I just think the Flames are really in a holding pattern because I think they’re really disappointed they’re here. I think that goes top to bottom, ownership, management, players. They’re just disappointed they’re in their spot.
“I don’t know what Calgary is going to do here, but the sense I really have from talking to people who’ve dealt with them is that they’re just trying to wrap their heads around where they are and what that means. But I do think teams have called them and I think Carolina is one of them.
“They have good players there who you can get two playoff runs out of and I think that people are just asking the Flames what they’re thinking and as I sit here today at 10:26 (am) MT I don’t know if Calgary has an answer but they’re getting calls.”