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Bruins endorse Backes after he's healthy scratch in Stanley Cup Final

Forward inactive for last three games, but GM calls him 'big part of our hockey club'

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- David Backes was a healthy scratch for the last three games of the Boston Bruins' seven-game loss to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final, but that doesn't mean the 35-year-old forward won't have a future with them.

Backes has two seasons left on the five-year, $30 million contract he signed July 1, 2016 (average annual value $6 million). He had five points (two goals, three assists) in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games after getting 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 70 regular-season games. He had 33 points (14 goals, 19 points) in 57 games in 2017-18.

"You think that we had a tremendous run, he was a big part of that, reinserted in Game 2 [of the Eastern Conference First Round] against Toronto where we elevated our physical play," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said at TD Garden on Monday. "You know he was a big part of our hockey club on and off the ice. So where it fits going forward, he's a part of our hockey club. I have discussions on different players. He may or may not be part of that, but for the most part he's a part of our hockey club.

"Where his impact is, is again up to [coach] Bruce [Cassidy] and again up to David in terms of a production standpoint, if you're referencing that. Or from a leadership standpoint, we know what he brings. And I think there's value there."

Backes sounded uncertain about his future but hopeful he'd be staying in Boston when he last addressed the media Friday.

"We were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup, which is one of those last goals on my list before my career is over," Backes said. "And I think this is a good place to accomplish that. Whether or not there's another crack from me, I truly don't know."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Backes levels Blais with big hit

The Bruins have several tasks to accomplish in the offseason. The top priority is getting the restricted free agents signed. Defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, and forward Danton Heinen, are the more prominent names on that list.

Then they might turn to re-signing forward Marcus Johansson, who could become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Johansson was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils for a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft on Feb. 25. He had three points (one goal, two assists) in 10 games after the trade and missed 10 because of a bruised lung. He had 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 22 playoff games.

"We have some things we need to clarify internally before I can definitively tell him," Sweeney said. "We found that Marcus was a really good fit for our hockey club. Was proud of how he had gotten injured and came back and elevated his play, was really invested. Thought he fit in really well with Charlie [Coyle] and Heinen and gave us some options on the power play, was a real good fit. Good person, great teammate, got us to a certain point, wish we could've finished it off."

Defenseman Torey Krug, who is signed for one more year at an annual average value of $5.25 million, is eligible to sign a contract extension July 1. Krug was third on the Bruins with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 24 playoff games after he had 53 points (six goals, 47 assists) in 64 regular-season games.

"Well, Torey's a part of our hockey club," Sweeney said. "Was really proud of his effort, took to heart being in a top-four role this year in the playoffs in particular where he was going to face [tough] matchups on the road, and handled them really well. The power play, the points, those things speak for themselves and have been throughout his time here. He's a big part of our club. Have the opportunity starting July 1 to open up talks. Again, the RFA market and some our internal things will dictate the timing of those conversations.

"If somebody blew us away, every player has to be looked at in that way … you're doing a disservice if you don't. But it would take a pretty unique opportunity to part with Torey. I think he's a big part of the fabric of our group. He's kind of that next wave of leadership that we talk about in behind some of the guys that have carried that mantle for a long period of time."

Sweeney provided an update on some injured players, including defenseman Zdeno Chara, who will have a small procedure on his elbow this week to remove loose fragments. He did not provide a timetable for his recovery. 

That was not the only injury Chara dealt with in the Cup final; the 42-year-old said Friday he had multiple fractures in his jaw and needed two plates, along with wires and screws, to repair them and allow him to complete the series. Chara was injured 3:07 into the second period of Game 4 when he was hit by a puck off the stick of Blues forward Brayden Schenn but returned for Games 5, 6 and 7 with a clear jaw protector. He expects to be ready for training camp in September.

Sweeney also said forwards Noel Acciari (heel) and David Backes (undisclosed) were having follow-up tests, and forward Joakim Nordstom has a fracture in his foot that will not require surgery.


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