Friday, November 12, 2010

Blues, Backes come to terms on extension

Power forward agrees to five-year contract
that will pay him $22.5 million, including a no-trade clause

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When feelings are mutual, deals are easily consummated. The Blues wanted David Backes and David Backes wanted the Blues.

A few short weeks ago, with both sides not agreeing on terms or parameters, Backes, 26, was on the cusp of heading into unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career in the summer of 2011.

But in the end, home is where the heart is, and the Minneapolis, Minnesota native likes calling St. Louis home. The smile Friday stretching from ear to ear attested to that notion.

The Blues and Backes came to an agreement on a five-year contract extension Friday morning that will reportedly pay the power forward $22.5 million, an average annual salary of $4.5 million which includes a no-trade clause.

"There's maybe that thought in your mind to chase that almighty penny all over the place, but there's so many things outside of money that are important; not just to myself and my wife (Kelly), but to have the great town and the people of St. Louis to support," said Backes, who could have potentially commanded more money on the open market.

"As much as you'd like to say you're mentally strong and you can block it out, it's something that does weigh on you. I think it's human nature that you're thinking about it now and then. Obviously we had a commitment to stay here and the Blues are making a big commitment to keep me here. I think it's a great day for both sides."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong initiated talks with Backes about the desire of extending him when the Blues had their exit meetings with Armstrong and President John Davidson.

It was an easy decision then. It was an easy decision now.

"As an unrestricted free agent, David had many opportunities, but right from the beginning, he said he wanted to be a St. Louis Blue," said Armstrong, who got the deal finalized Friday morning with Backes' agent Don Meehan. "He wanted to finish what he had started here. He's been through some lean times.

"We're heading into the areas that we want to get to and David's a huge part of that, not only on the ice but in our community. He represents the St. Louis Blues 24/7/365 the way we want to be represented."

Armstrong said the ideal situation would have been to get a deal done prior to the season starting, but he never wavered from the mindset that a deal would not be completed.

"These deals aren't done in a vacuum," Armstrong said. "Without the commitment of (Blues owner) Dave Checketts, John Davidson and the entire ownership group here, you can't make a commitment like this. From Mr. Checketts, Mr. Davidson, Mr. (Mike) McCarthy and the rest of the Blues management, we're very excited today. It's a great day for the St. Louis Blues now and for the next five years.

"I know now moving forward, we don't have to worry about what we're going to do with David Backes in the second half of the season. He's a Blue, he's a Blue for the next five years and I'm hoping much past that to end his career here."

Backes is currently in his fifth NHL season, all with the Blues. He was drafted by the Blues in the second round (62nd overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He is two-years removed from a career-high 31 goals and 54 points.

"Maybe I don't know any better, but I know that this group's trending in the right direction," Backes said. "We've got a lot of great, young talent and you've seen our start so far this year; pretty good record so far. With a few injuries, we've still been able to maintain a high level of play. We plan on doing that, not for just the rest of this year and into the playoffs, but for years to come."

Backes currently has six points (two goals and four assists) to go along with 32 penalty minutes in 14 games.

Last season, Backes was selected to represent the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics, notching a goal and two assists in six games, helping Team USA capture the Silver Medal.

"It's an exciting time for a (general) manager to make that kind of a commitment to someone you trust, someone that you know the team can grow with, someone that you know is going to represent and teach our young players what it means to be a pro and what it means to get to the other side and into the promised land," Armstrong said.

"I said that he's a priority for the St. Louis Blues. He's born and raised a Blue. He was drafted by us. He's played here, he understands what it means, but more importantly, he understands where we're trying to go to. To get that done, we said that if we can get that done before the season starts, that would be our goal. We talked about it. We were moving the goalpost closer and closer together, but it took a little bit of time into the season to get it done."

Backes' contract is comparable to that of the one signed by Vancouver Canucks forward and USA Olympic teammate Ryan Kesler.

"You look at the guys that are paid in the realm that I'm paid, they're expected to produce and I don't expect anything less of myself," Backes said. "When I'm on the ice, I expect to be a positive factor in winning games, whether that's a puck directly coming off my stick or going to the back of the net, I'd love for it to happen 30-35 more times this year. If that doesn't happen, I hope to be contributing to wins, the small areas, the details, little gritty areas that teams that win take care of. ... Winning games, I'm much more happier with that than personal successes."

Backes and wife Kelly are big in the community as far as charity is concerned, including a program called David's Dogs at the Humane Society in St. Charles, Mo. that promotes adoption of some of our harder to place canine residents.

"With the comfort level we have with the Blues, the area and the way we're set up in the community, it really was a no-brainer that we wanted to be back here," Backes said. "With the commitment the management and ownership took in getting this deal done, we were more than satisfied that this is where we want to be the next five years and a place we plan on having a lot of success the next five years."

It's one of the character traits Armstrong and the Blues appreciate from their players. It's the reason Armstrong felt a deal would get done.

"Knowing David's character and his professionalism, he was going to be able to deal with this and continue to play and play at a high level," Armstrong said. "I hope this represents something to all our players here that there's a commitment from the ownership group. ... David Backes is a cornerstone player.

"When I asked David first and foremost did he want to be a St. Louis Blue, the answer was yes to that. Everything else to me was downhill from there. Once I knew he wanted to be a Blue, I knew we were going to do everything we could to get it done. By David saying he wanted to be a Blue, he was going to make sure it got done."

* NOTES -- The Blues departed on a three-game trip that will take them to Phoenix Colorado and Detroit. They did so without defenseman Ian Cole, who was assigned back to AHL Peoria on Friday. ... The NHL announced on Friday its list of 100 players named to the ballot in the 2011 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting. The Blues were represented by two players: goalie Jaroslav Halak and forward T.J. Oshie. Obviously, Oshie will not be available after being sidelined a minimum of three months after suffering a broken left ankle Wednesday.

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