Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom’s 2021-22 regular season has been tough on and off the ice as he hit a crossroads with a chronic hip injury that he acknowledges will never be 100%.
On Washington’s blackout day on Sunday, Backstrom said he wasn’t sure what the future holds for him and that he’ll have to “make some decisions,” regarding his still-troublesome hip that has left him. prevented him from playing until December 15 and hampered his play the rest. of the season.
Several Capitals teammates commented throughout the day, and throughout the season, about the tremendous effort Backstrom had to put in just to skate with the team every day at practices and games. The injury kept Backstrom out until December, but clearly hampered him in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Obviously we’ll see what happens,” Backstrom said. “We have decisions to make. These decisions are not finalized yet, so we will take them day by day.”
Backstrom, who had surgery on the same hip in 2015, didn’t say if surgery was a possibility for him this summer. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan, however, said it was not viable for Backstrom to play another NHL season with his hip in the same condition as it is now.
When asked directly if this could be a career-ending injury for the 14-year-old Washington Center, MacLellan didn’t answer the question directly.
“I think he’s going to explore all the options here,” MacLellan said. “He wants it to be better. He wants to be more comfortable physically when he plays, so he’s going to explore that.”
Backstrom, 34, has three more seasons left on a contract that will earn him an average of $9.2 million per season.
“The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and that’s my life,” Backstrom said. “Obviously I want to be back. I want to get back to normal, not worrying about that. Nothing is finalized yet.”
In 47 regular season games this season, Backstrom had 31 points and 25 assists. He also took maintenance days throughout the season to rest the hip.
“He’s a warrior,” said longtime teammate Alex Ovechkin. “He’s a tough man. I’m sure he’ll be better next year. Obviously, everyone knows what he represents for the team, for the organization, for us. He is a leader and I hope he gets better.
Backstrom has been with the Capitals since 2007 when he scored 69 points in his rookie season. During his career, he played in 1,058 regular season games and 139 playoff games.
His health will be a huge factor — and perhaps the main factor — in determining how the Capitals approach their offseason after a fourth consecutive first-round Stanley Cup Playoff outing.
But with the current health of his hip, everyone involved said a decision had to be made on what to do next.
“He put in a lot more work to be ready to play than people saw,” teammate Nic Dowd said. “A lot more work than probably 90% of guys in the NHL do on a daily basis, Nicky does on a consistent scale. We needed him. Our team wouldn’t be the same without him. »