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PART OF THE DNA

Your Flames Authority George Johnson recounts how inking Backlund to long-term deal was pivotal move for the future

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com
Your Flames Authority George Johnson is looking back on five highlights from the past season:
 
1. THE DYNAMIC DUO
2. LAST LINE OF DEFENCE
3. YOUTH MOVEMENT
4. HEART AND SOUL
5. PART OF THE DNA (today)

 

A best two-out-of-three coin flip as to who seemed happier on the late afternoon of Feb. 16: The guy actually putting pen to paper inside the Flames' executive inner sanctum or the gent handing him the ballpoint.

"This has always been my mindset,'' assured a beaming Mikael Backlund, shortly after being inked to a six-year, $31-million agreement to forego free agency and remain in Calgary.

"Our goal our whole time was to sign here and stay in Calgary. Since the first day I got here, and then (fiancée) Frida got here, we've loved the city.

"This is where we wanted to be; where we wanted to stay."

Backlund's signature 48 hours after Valentine's Day put an end to mounting speculation over the valuable centreman's long-term future.

A pending unrestricted free agent July 1, getting him locked-up had been a priority for GM Brad Treliving since the previous summer.

Mission accomplished.

"He's a part of the culture, the DNA, of our team,'' explained Treliving of the deal, which takes Backlund to age 34.

"He looks after himself. He plays in a lot of situations, on both sides of the puck. Plays a premier position.

"He fits here. This is a guy who helps you win. We've locked up a core piece of our team.

"It's a great day.

"To get this done is a big piece of business."

For Backlund, length of term was a selling point, not a drawback.

"We've made a commitment and the team has made one, too. It's a big deal. Six years. We're talking about our future, so it's always been a big decision. We wanted a longer (term). 

"So it's a dream come true to sign a contract like this, especially here in Calgary, where it began for me.

"I've tried to push myself to get to this point. Some years were tougher than others, sometimes maybe people wondered, maybe I wondered sometimes, too, but I always hoped that this would happen.

"And now it has."

As the middle M on the 3M Line, Backlund's progress began to fast-track after being partnered with freshman Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik.

Backlund is at the core of what has emerged as one of the league's best shutdown lines.

They are routinely counted upon to shut down the opposition's top trio - Backlund regularly finding himself going mano-a-mano, noggin-to-noggin, against the Anze Kopitars, Connor McDavids and Jonathan Toewses of the world - as well as make a splash offensively.

The line certainly took a big hit this past season when Tkachuk awkwardly fell backwards overtop of a fallen Matthew Barzal of the NY Islanders on March 11 at the Scotiabank Saddldome, forcing him to miss the final dozen games of the season.

While his point total dipped from a personal best 53 last year to 45, Backlund's 31 assists equalled a career high. And at 29, he's only now reaching the optimum years of his playing days.

"Things didn't go the way we wanted them to this season as a team,'' he said. 

"Personally, I know I can do better.

"I think Chucky, Fro and I have built a lot of chemistry and I hope I can play with those guys for a long time to come."

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