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Backstrom eager for fresh opportunity with Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

-- For a moment, Niklas Backstrom paused.

He wanted to know, if he lifted his no-trade clause to join the Calgary Flames, that it would be for a reason.

For an opportunity.

And then, he waived it.

Without hesitation.

“I don’t think I would have done it otherwise,” said Backstrom, acquired by the Flames along with a sixth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft in exchange for forward David Jones.

“It’s still something where I want to play and I want to compete. That’s what probably helped me this year, being more committed and trying to work as hard as I can on the ice and off the ice. I still want to play next year – if it’s in Europe or if it’s [in the NHL]. I want to still compete and see what I can do and that’s for sure the biggest reason why I waived it, because it’s pretty clear in Minnesota what is going on here.”

Backstrom hasn’t played a game this season for Minnesota.

The 38-year-old hasn’t played a game -- period -- in over a year.

His last game came on Jan. 13, 2015 in a 29-save performance in a 7-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins -- a game he didn’t finish.

The Wild acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk a day later.

Backstrom, who made his Wild debut in 2006 and is the team's career leader with 194 victories and 28 shutouts, hasn’t seen a second of NHL action since.

Injuries have played a part.

Backstrom has undergone surgeries for maladies including a torn labrum in his hip, two sports hernias and an ankle injury, on top of a torn triceps that pressed on a nerve that disturbed his fingers last summer.

But, Backstrom insists, he's good to go.

And a clean bill of health for the duration of the season has Backstrom ready -- and willing -- to once again compete for crease time.

“I feel like I’ve been healthy the whole year and for sure it has not been fun because with not playing and not seeing the practice time on the ice that you usually see,” said Backstrom, who has dressed as backup for a handful of games in Minnesota this season. “But it’s been fun when you are healthy and I like it. To be part of a team and go out there push yourself and see what you can do. I still enjoy it and that’s the main part. You have to be ready to put in the work on the ice and off the ice otherwise you’re no use to anyone.

“I feel like I’m ready to do the work I need to do to play at the level I can.”

The Flames will give him the opportunity to find out.

Backstrom waived with the hopes he could get some crease time in Calgary.

“I’m excited,” Backstrom said. “For sure it’s been a different year for me and I’m really excited to get a chance and an opportunity. I’ve been in the same division pretty much my whole career as Calgary so I’ve seen the fans and I’ve seen the team and the city and I’ve always liked it so it’s going to be fun to see it from the other side.”

Where the opportunity goes from there is unpredictable.

Backstrom isn’t jumping the gun just yet.

He’s pausing on the long-term picture.

For the time being.

“I think for me, like the rest of my season, you go one day at a time and you do everything as well as you can every day and usually the rest will take care of itself,” Backstrom said. “Calgary is a great city and a great organization and the rink is a great place to play.

“It’s a great spot for a hockey player but for me I’m not even playing this year so it’s more about the first crack and then take a step after that and see how everything else goes.”

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