CALGARY, AB -- Mikael Backlund
had two reasons to celebrate on Saturday.
On Midsummer in Sweden, a national holiday where friends and family gather to celebrate the high-point of the summer and the start of holidays, Backlund signed a multi-year deal with the Calgary Flames.
“It was pretty good timing, there's a big celebration going on here in Sweden," Backlund said from his hometown of Vasteras. "I had most of my friends here last night and my family so it was pretty good timing with everybody here.
"We were sitting on a dock and I saw the call and I put it on speaker and my agent told me the deal and everybody was pretty excited."
Backlund, 26, is coming off his sixth NHL season -- all with the Flames -- and was hoping for a longer term so he could stay in the place he's called home since he began his NHL journey.
"I wanted to be in Calgary. The organization, all my teammates, the staff -- everybody has been great to me and it is like home now and it was a pretty easy decision to try and get a longer deal for me and after having a couple of shorter ones I wanted to get a three or four year deal.
"I have really liked my time here in Calgary so far and it feels like home so it was a no-brainer for me."
Only Mark Giordano has been in Calgary longer than Backlund which makes the 26-year-old one of Calgary's longest serving skaters. The excitement of the Flames' first playoff run since 2009 was shared by Backlund and he thinks the future in Calgary is bright.
“The team is on the right path and we've got a lot of new, young players," Backlund said. "We had a great experience this year with playoffs -- it was awesome -- the best time in my NHL life so far and I want to get more of that and I feel like we have a really good chance playing in Calgary.
"It was an easy decision for me. I've gone through a lot of ups and downs in Calgary and I want to keep the ups coming and I just want to keep going so it was easy to make the decision."
Backlund's deal marked the first of what is expected to be a number of completed contracts for Brad Treliving and company this off-season. With Backlund out of the way, Treliving still has plenty of work to do with his crop of restricted free agents including notables Lance Bouma, Josh Jooris, Drew Shore, and Micheal Ferland.
Locking up Backlund quickly bodes well for the Flames general manager heading into the NHL Draft with plenty of time left before training camp in September.
"He was a player that needed a contract and we wanted to sign," Treliving stated. "All those players that we want to sign are priorities and they all have different ebbs and flows and speeds but obviously this was a deal we wanted to get completed.
"It's a good deal that allows us to take care of business early and move on. We've got a number of players that are looking at new contracts and we work with them individually. Some of them are quicker than others.
"We wanted to get this done as well as the others as quickly as we can."
It also solidifies the Flames down the middle moving into next season. Calgary lacked organizational depth at the centre ice position for a long time but in recent years they have collected a wealth of pivots. Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Matt Stajan, and Backlund will be mainstays while Drew Shore, Markus Granlund, and Bill Arnold are further down the line.
Either way, Treliving has plenty of options
“To me, it's all about how you slot people in," Treliving continued. "Backs is able to play against the top players, he can play both sides of special teams, his numbers haven't been big but he generates production, he holds on to pucks, he possesses the puck, he can be a guy who makes those around him better as well as filling a defensive role.
"The ability to do all those types of things allows you to slot and not necessarily rush and put people in situations where they may not be as ready for now. It's an important position and Mikael's versatility gives us a lot of options."
An abdominal injury which required surgery for Backlund last November derailed a season in which he was confident and just catching his stride. After his recovery, Backlund kicked off the new year with four goals and seven points in his first five games. After that, he struggled to find a consistent rhythm and wasn't happy with his game. He's confident, though, he can get back to the level of play in his 2013-14 campaign when he put up 39 points in 76 games.
"The injury didn't help. It set me back and I was trying to catch up all year," Backlund recalled. "After the surgery I didn't get enough time to have full training because I trained all last summer, I was in great shape and when the injury happened I didn't do much at all for a month-and-a-half or so. I wanted to get back to there but I just never got that chance.
"When the season was over I was really excited to get a chance to train again for a full summer and get back to my regular shape or even better."
Treliving knows Backlund has more to give.
“I still think there’s a lot more growth in Mikael," Treliving said. "He's such an intelligent player, he thinks the game so well. I think there's still untapped offence with Mikael. It's the ability for him to make those around him better. If you look at him when he was back up and going this season after he got all the injury stuff behind him, a lot of nights he's matched up against top players on the other teams. He's still a young player. This is still a player who is just 26 years old. We still there's still growth there and we also like how this starts to set up out team moving forward."