Montreal Canadiens Should Trade For David Backes – With Large Incentive

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 19: Boston Bruins center David Backes (42) looks to make a play during a game between the Boston Bruins and the New York islanders on December 19, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 19: Boston Bruins center David Backes (42) looks to make a play during a game between the Boston Bruins and the New York islanders on December 19, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have used their vacant cap space to add Joel Armia in the past. They should look to add another prospect by taking on David Backes contract.

The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins rarely link up on trades. Division rivals don’t usually like to help each other out by making trades and the Habs and Bruins are the oldest rivals in the league so they aren’t likely to make many deals. It would take a special circumstance to lead to a trade between Boston and Montreal.

We could be very close to those “special circumstances” being aligned for a deal that makes a lot of sense for both sides. The last trade between these two rivals was nearly 20 years ago when Patrick Traverse and Eric Weinrich swapped sides. If the Habs play their cards wisely, they could be on the right side of a rare deal with the Bruins.

Right now, Boston is leading the Atlantic Division, they have a veteran team, they were in the Stanley Cup Final last season and have two of the top scorers in the league. They are nearly buyers, they are going for it and they want to improve an already impressive lineup.

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Their top line of Patrice Bergeron between David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is arguably the best trio in the entire league. Beyond that, David Krejci is having a solid year as their second line centre, Jake DeBrusk has been a decent contributor, and they get great defence from Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo.

They could use another top six forward to join Krejci and DeBrusk on the second line. There are plenty of rumours of the Bruins targeting a player like Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers. He would be a tremendous fit in Boston, but the salary cap could make it difficult for the Bruins to add any money on the books.

The Bruins would love to clear out some cap space so they could afford to acquire a top six winger. The player they would obviously like to part with is David Backes.

Backes was a great player for the St. Louis Blues for many years. When he became a free agent in 2016, the Bruins gave him a five year contract with an annual cap hit of $6 million. He regularly scored 50 or more points for the Blues and brought a physical presence with his 6’3″ frame, but he hasn’t scored more than 38 points with the Bruins.

The American forward was recently placed on waivers and when he passed through without a claim, the Bruins told him he didn’t have to report to their AHL affiliate in Providence. So, he now doesn’t play hockey anywhere but he continues to take up close to five million dollars of the Bruins cap space. They get just over a million dollars of relief for having “assigned” him to the minors.

It would greatly benefit the Bruins if they could trade Backes. Getting that cap hit off the books would allow them to make another trade that brought in a top six player that could help on their quest for a Stanley Cup.

The Canadiens made a similar trade when they acquired Joel Armia from the Winnipeg Jets along with Steve Mason, fourth and seventh round draft picks. They sent Simon Bourque to the Jets in exchange. Basically, the deal boiled down to the Habs acquiring a solid young player in Armia for taking on Mason’s $4.5 million cap hit for one season.

Backes has a higher cap hit, with one year left on his contract following this season at $6 million. The Habs could elect to buy him out like they did with Mason and it would only cost them $4 million next season plus $1 million the following year. (All of this contract stuff is courtesy of of course).

When the Habs acquired Armia from the Sabres, he was a 25 year old winger who had shown some promise at the NHL level, but had 29 points in 79 games playing for a stacked Jets team. He was an intriguing player for sure, but he was no spring chicken anymore and had not been piling up points in Winnipeg.

Still, the Habs knew they were acquiring a player that played a smart, effective, defensive game and had some untapped offensive potential. He was a first round pick for a reason and had the skills and two-way abilities to play much higher on the Habs depth chart. If Montreal is going to acquire Backes, it would require a similarly intriguing prospect and a depth pick coming along with him to the Habs.

Perhaps the Bruins would be willing to add Trent Frederic into a deal with Backes. Frederic was a first round pick in 2016, plays centre and brings a physical presence to the Providence Bruins lineup. He also has 25 points in 43 games this season, his second in the AHL. He scored 14 goals and 25 points in 55 games last season as a rookie with the Providence Bruins.

The Bruins would also have to throw in a third round pick to make the deal enticing enough for the Canadiens. So, a deal like Backes, Frederic and a 2020 third round pick for Andrew Sturtz who is not going to be brought back to the Habs oraganization next year anyway.

Why would the Bruins do it? Clear enough cap space to acquire a player like Kreider who makes their top six far better this season and allows them to be a player in free agency this summer. The Habs do it because they have lots of cap space this season and next and could use another big-body prospect who could develop a bit of an offensive game and become a solid third line player at the NHL level.

We don’t often see these two teams hook up for trades. This one makes enough sense for both sides that we could see the first deal between the two sides since Weinrich became a Canadiens player 19 years ago.