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David Backes ready to win with Bruins

Five-year contract highlights busy day for Boston

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins haven't qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, but that didn't stop center David Backes from signing a five-year, $30 million contract with them Friday.

Backes, who reached the Western Conference Final as captain of the St. Louis Blues last season, said he believes the Bruins are on the right track to making the playoffs. The Bruins were in a playoff position with two weeks left in the regular season but stumbled down the stretch and missed the postseason because of a tiebreaker.

"I think it's more of a retooling with the new GM (Don Sweeney) and the past couple years that with the [salary-cap] issues had to really change the look of the team. And now they're trying to get pieces back that they think will get them over the hump," Backes said Friday. "They barely missed the playoffs last year, and if they were able to get in the playoffs I don't think anyone would've wanted to play them.

"That being said, when you can complement and share the load with a guy like [Patrice] Bergeron and [David] Krejci, that's the way it's sold. It's not, 'Hey, we need you to come in and do all the heavy lifting, take the D-zone draws and then change and then the other guys get the posh ice.'

"The conversation was, 'Hey, we want you to come in and be a member of this team that shares the workload with other guys that work their butts off. And together as a group we're going to have success.' And to me, these guys get it, they know what it's going to take to win, and that's what I want to be a part of."

Backes' signing was the biggest move for second-year general manager Sweeney during a busy couple of days. He bought out the contract of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and re-signed defensemen Torey Krug for four years Thursday. The Bruins signed forward Riley Nash away from the Carolina Hurricanes on a two-year contract, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin from the Anaheim Ducks on a two-year contract, and re-signed defenseman John-Michael Liles for one year. Sweeney also re-signed defenseman Tommy Cross and forward Tyler Randell to one-year, two-way contracts.

The Bruins bid farewell to several free agents, including forward Loui Eriksson, who scored 30 goals last season. Eriksson, 30, left for a six-year, $36 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. The Bruins also lost forwards Lee Stempniak (Carolina) and Brett Connolly (Washington Capitals), goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (Edmonton Oilers), and defenseman Zach Trotman (Los Angeles Kings).

Boston has about $8-9 million left under the NHL $73 million salary cap, according to General Fanager, with 12 forwards, five defensemen and two goaltenders signed.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Backes pads the lead with great shot

"Our philosophy today going into the free-agent period was to address some needs, and I think we did that," Sweeney said. "But we created what I think is a real internal competition for our younger players to step up and emerge around what I think we've added to the core group of our players. They should be excited about this opportunity. I think going forward, the next foreseeable future number of years, I think we now have core players that are driven to win. I think our younger players will benefit from being around them day in and day out as they grow up to be NHL players on a full-time basis. We still maintain cap flexibility to continue to look for the right deal from here on out."

Backes, 32, had 21 goals and 24 assists in 79 games last season. In 727 NHL games, all with St. Louis, he had 206 goals and 254 assists.

"I just believe the versatility of this player and the leadership qualities speak for themselves," Sweeney said. "And his production, we expect it to continue. It took a drop this year, but that's the age where they did studies that everybody looks at and realized you know what you signed up for in this player. The commitment to the term from the ownership standpoint, we were all on board. We're trying to win, and a number of players we have, I think it's going to be a good complement."

Video: Thank you, David Backes

The Bruins were one of several suitors for Backes. He questioned them about already having right-shot centers Bergeron and Krejci on the roster. But they sold Backes on the depth and flexibility his arrival would provide.

"I'm into winning games. So if [coach] Claude [Julien] thinks we're going to win more games with me playing wing, I'm in. If he thinks we're going to win more games with me playing center, I'm in," Backes said. "Whatever he thinks, I'll do it to the best of my ability. It's one of those things where it may be schedule-dependent, it may be opponent-dependent. There may be a bunch of different variables. But we're going to have a game plan to win and we're going to go out there and execute it."

A physical presence and a proven leader, Backes said he believes he has a lot to offer the Bruins.

"I'm 32, I'm not 52," Backes said. "I think there's plenty of legs and plenty of physicality and energy left in me. The term's maybe something that maybe people are questioning. But for me, I expect to be at the top of my game for that last year and be a contributing member of the Boston Bruins."

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