David Backes has captained the St. Louis Blues through three consecutive first-round playoff exits, and as the team’s captain he no doubt felt as though he was in part responsible for the team’s shortcomings. But this season, St. Louis made a playoff breakthrough, first with a series win over the Chicago Blackhawks and then getting by the Dallas Stars in the second round.
The Blues’ run towards a potential Stanley Cup final, which was the deepest they had been since the 2000-01 playoffs, ended Wednesday night with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. And post-game, Backes, who has potentially played his final game in St. Louis, got choked up talking about the commitment to each other that this Blues team had.
It was especially difficult for Backes to get through a story about Game 5. Backes had watched from the bench for most of Game 4 after suffering an unspecified injury, but the Blues captain was back in the lineup and played 16-plus minutes in Game 5 thanks to some help from teammate Steve Ott. Backes could barely get through the story:
Throughout his time in St. Louis, Backes no doubt came to understand that the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup doesn’t come around every season. The Blues have finished in the top two of the Central Division, arguably the toughest division to win in hockey, in each of the past five seasons yet this was their first trip past the second round over that span and the first time in five seasons they had won a second-round game. The lowest in the league-wide standings the Blues finished was sixth, yet they have no titles to show for it.
Backes’ future is in question now, too. After earning $4.5 million this past season in the final year of a five-year, $22.5-million deal he signed in 2010, Backes becomes an unrestricted free agent. At 32, he’s entering the tail end of his prime years and it wouldn’t be shocking if he were to test the free agent market and look to both cash in and find a place where he can win.
Helping his case on the open market will be that Backes had a great playoff, scoring seven goals and 14 points in 20 games. He’s been a consistent 20-goal scorer throughout his career, and there are a number of teams who will be chasing Backes come free agency.