The free agent signing period hasn’t begun but the rumors are flying around and the New York Rangers are said to have an interest in St. Louis Blues center David Backes.
Backes, 32, is coming off of his third straight season of 20 or more goals and has accomplished that in five of the last six years. He is a gritty player who isn’t afraid to mix it up and fight for the puck. He also has won more than half of his faceoffs for the fourth straight year, winning 52 percent of his faceoffs last season.
There is no doubt the Rangers could use a player of Backes’ ability. However, this is the wrong player at the wrong time. Backes’ prime years are well behind him, like Brad Richards’ were when the Rangers signed him. Sure, he could provide leadership and grit but those qualities are available for a lot less money than Backes will command in what will be an insane free agent market.
The Rangers don’t have much cap space and they still need to sign restricted free agents J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and Dylan McIlrath. They recently gave them all qualifying offers but they want to lock at least three of them up to long-term deals.
Signing Backes would require the Rangers to clear significant cap space. GM Jeff Gorton tried to make deals during the NHL Draft but nothing materialized. Quite honestly, the Rangers are better off with Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, and Kevin Hayes than they would be with Backes.
The Rangers ranked seventh in the NHL last season in goals for and that was with Rick Nash being a shell of the player he was in 2014-15 when he scored 42 goals. The Rangers need to fix their defense. They allowed opposing teams too many open looks and never made opponents fear going into the Rangers’ zone. It was open season on Henrik Lundqvist who can only do so much.
If the Rangers are lucky another team will offer Backes more than the Rangers can. They don’t need to be handing out free agent deals to players on the wrong side of 30 and further handcuffing themselves when it comes to the cap. This is one time the Rangers should pass.