When the Washington Capitals' media relations department sent out a press release Sunday announcing a "significant player-related announcement on Monday," it could have only meant one thing. No, not that Alex Semin has been found, but that Nicklas Backstrom(notes) was set to sign a new contract.
Monday morning, the Capitals announced a 10-year, $67 million deal for the 22-year-old centerman, with his deal expiring one year before Alex Ovechkin's.(notes)
The Washington Post's Tarik el-Bashir reports the breakdown is $6 million for each of the first four years, then $6.5 million for each of the next two, $7 million for one, $7.5 million in both years eight and nine, and then $8 million in the final year.
Backstrom was set to become a restricted free agent this summer and is cashing in off a career season that saw him finish fourth overall in the NHL in points (101), third in assists (68) and fourth in plus-minus (+37). Since his rookie campaign in 2007-08, Backstrom has seen increases in every one of his offensive categories and has yet to miss a game, regular season or playoffs, in his NHL career.
Giving Backstrom $6.7 million a season puts the Capitals at around $43.4 million with nearly $13.4 million of cap space remaining next season, according to CapGeek.com, with nine other restricted and 11 unrestricted free agents for General Manager George McPhee to deal with this off season.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Gary Bettman said at a press conference in Chicago that the 2010-11 salary cap wasn't expected to differ much from the $56.8 million limit for this season.
Washington had about $20 million in cap space heading into the off season and McPhee started his spending on a good note. Keeping the 101-point pivot alongside Ovechkin for the next 10 years will ensure a high level of productivity from the Capitals' top line.
Now that Backstrom is locked up, the rumors about the future of Alexander Semin(notes) in D.C. will start up. His deal ends after next season. After McPhee is done with off-season signings, will there be enough left over to keep Semin?