11-1 Nicklas Backstrom WSH injury status

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nicklas Backstrom is taking time away from hockey and his playing future is unclear because of what the Washington Capitals center called “my ongoing injury situation” with his left hip.

“This is a difficult decision, but one that I feel is right for my health at this time,” Backstrom said in a statement released by the Capitals. “I want to thank my teammates, the organization and fans for their unwavering support throughout this process. I ask for privacy at this time as I determine my next steps and viable options moving forward.”

Backstrom, who has one assist in eight games this season, had resurfacing surgery on his left hip June 17, 2022, at the ANCA Clinic in Belgium. The 35-year-old returned to have 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 39 games last season and proclaimed himself “100 percent” in training camp after having a full offseason to train for the first time since 2020, but informed general manager Brian MacLellan, coach Spencer Carbery, and Washington’s training staff Monday that his hip was not responding how he would like.

Backstrom addressed his Capitals teammates in the locker room prior to practice Wednesday to inform them of his decision to step away from playing.

“To be honest with you, I was in shock when I heard it today,” Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said. “He’s my friend, he’s my teammate and to see how emotional he is, you know it’s a tough situation.”

Backstrom announces he's stepping away due to injury

Backstrom will be placed on injured reserve and is expected to eventually be placed on long-term injured reserve. It is unknown if or when he will play again. He has two seasons left on a five-year, $46 million contract ($9.2 million average annual value) he signed Jan. 14, 2020.

“We stand behind Nicklas and will support him throughout this process,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We know firsthand how hard he has worked and how determined he is to get back to full health. Our organization stands fully behind him while he takes his leave of absence from the team and takes time to evaluate his current health situation.”

Hearing from Backstrom how he is unable to continue playing after 15 NHL seasons, all with Washington, had an emotional impact on the entire team.

“It was obviously a hard thing for him to do,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. “Nick is an insane, large piece of this organization. First and foremost, we're happy that he's focusing on getting back to full health. But as a teammate, it's hard to watch a guy announce something like that. I've seen how hard he's worked to get back, not just one surgery but multiple. He's been working super hard to come back and play the game that he loves again.”

Backstrom has had recurring issues with his left hip. After having arthroscopic surgery on it in 2015, it began to bother him again late in the 2020-21 season. Hoping to avoid having a second procedure, he missed the first 28 games in 2021-22 while rehabbing his hip and returned to get 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 47 regular-season games and six points (two goals, four assists) in six Stanley Cup Playoff games for Washington.

Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski was the only previous player to return to the NHL after having hip resurfacing surgery when he played 37 games in 2013-14 before retiring. But the pain grew in Backstrom’s hip reached the point that he decided to have resurfacing surgery as what he called “a last resort” try to prolong his career and improve his quality of life off the ice.

“He was exhausting every opportunity on his body to get it feeling as good as he possibly could,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. “And that just shows you. I mean, a guy with that type of surgery, those types of things, that’s a lot to even think about let alone going through it. We’re just here, hoping he’s in the best place he can be.”

Selected in the first round (No. 4) of the 2006 NHL Draft, Backstrom is second in Capitals history behind Ovechkin with 1,033 points (271 goals, 762 assists) in 1,105 NHL regular-season games. He is Washington's all-time assists leader and ranks second in team history in games played, power-play points (421) and overtime goals (nine), and fourth in goals, power-play goals (86) and game-winning goals (39). His 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs helped the Capitals win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history.

Backstrom is the only other player in Capitals history other than Ovechkin to play 1,000 games and have at least 1,000 points.

“He’s one of the greatest Capitals of all time and, hopefully, that will continue,” Carbery said. “(He played) 1,100 games, some odd over 1,000 points, part of the Stanley Cup team, has played his entire career as a Washington Capital. There will be time for reflection of what he’s accomplished in his career, but for right now and the time being for him now stepping away, trying to get physically back to where he needs to get, just leaves a void in our team. Huge void.”