Calgary Flames

Predicting what a potential Mikael Backlund trade could look like

Mikael Backlund is the longest tenured Calgary Flames player. Considering the lack of success the Flames have had during his time with the team, coupled with the turmoil currently surrounding the franchise right now, it isn’t overly surprising that Backlund may be looking to chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere.

However, the future of Backlund with the Flames is uncertain at best. Some reports have come out stating his desire to move on after his contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, while others discuss his enthusiasm to be the captain of the Flames and steer them to a more prosperous future.

Regardless, if Craig Conroy and his new staff do not have a clear indication of what Backlund will do after this season, they may have no choice but to trade him away.

Mikael Backlund’s player type

Backlund is one of the premier two-way centers in the game. He’s coming off one of his best seasons in the NHL and appears to be aging like fine wine. Every single team needs a two-way pivot like Backlund to win in this league, and at a reasonable cap hit of just $5.35M for one more season, almost every single team could fit Backlund into their salary cap, especially if the Flames retain a portion of the contract.

He’s one of the best analytical players in the NHL, makes every single linemate he plays with better on both ends of the ice, and is a leader both in and out of the dressing room. Backlund is an add that every team should be salivating over and this is a player who will improve every roster. Backlund is best suited as a middle-six center with top penalty killing duties. His defensive impact is what wins you games in the playoffs, too.

Some team will feel much more comfortable giving him the keys to the so-called kingdom.

The asset management point of view on Backlund

Backlund was drafted by the Flames 24th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. Here’s a grainy photo of the broadcast:

Since then, Backlund has signed five contracts with the Flames totaling approximately $43M, played 908 games, scored 185 goals and 492 points, and is an undisputed all-time Flames great. He ranks third all time in games played, 14th in goals, 10th in assists, 11th in points, and has received votes for the Selke trophy in five different seasons. This year, he’s a finalist for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.”

Backlund is a good one, and teams will be calling about him.

The price teams should be paying for Backlund

Players like Backlund are not easy to find. With his two-way dominance, leadership qualities, experience, and all at a reasonable cap hit, there should be a long line up to acquire Backlund. Almost every team who has any aspirations of competing for the Stanley Cup would be better with Backlund and the price should reflect that.

If the Flames are able to trade Backlund at or before this year’s draft, securing an additional first round pick should be doable. A team with multiple firsts like the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, or Detroit Red Wings should be on the radar. Even if these teams, who are likely trying to win next season, fall short as the trade deadline approaches, they could easily ship Backlund to a contender and recoup a first rounder in the deal. If they retain more salary, it could be a net gain in assets at the end of the day. Of course, this is also an option for the Flames should they choose to wait on Backlund and trade him a the deadline instead.

Other contending teams like the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, and Minnesota Wild would be excellent destinations for Backlund. Any of those teams acquiring a bonafide 2C who can play in all three zones would be a huge boost to their playoff chances. The Flames would be looking for a top prospect, a 2024 first round pick, or multiple second round picks in that type of deal.

Teams to target and Backlund trade proposals

Out of all the options, I think the best would be those with multiple firsts in 2023. If the Flames can return a first round pick this year, even if it’s late in the first round, it’s a win.

Beyond that, I’d look for a futures deal with a team who desperately needs one more piece to be a legit contender. The Bruins are potentially losing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci so adding Backlund makes a ton of sense for them, but they don’t have a first round pick until 2025. Perhaps a player like Fabian Lysell could come the other way.

The Panthers are another interesting team to consider. Backlund’s history with Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett could be intriguing, and loading up with Aleksander Barkov and Backlund down the middle would be a nightmare for any playoff opponent. The Pantehrs have a first rounder in 2024, and Anthony Duclair who the Flames are reportedly targeting to play with Jonathan Huberdeau.

The best outcome on trading Backlund

There are honestly so many options for a Backlund trade. He is just such a valuable player around the NHL and any team would be scared to see a rival acquire him.

The best case scenario is a late first rounder this season, but a 2024 first and/or high end prospect would be a pretty solid return in my eyes as well.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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