Analyzing the Nicklas Backstrom Extension With Washington

On January 14th, the Washington Capitals announced they had come to an agreement with the franchise’s all-time leader in assists, Nicklas Backstrom, on a five-year, $46 million ($9.2 AAV) extension to stay in Washington. It will make him the 9th highest-paid center in the NHL when it begins at the start of the 2020-2021 season. Backstrom negotiated this contract himself, without an agent, as he believed he had a high level of trust with his management brass. This makes him the 2nd highest-paid player in the organization behind only Alex Ovechkin.


Nicklas Backstrom has seen his individual AB score gradually decrease from his solid +3.89 score in 2015-16 to +1.89 in 2016-17, to +0.58 in 2017-18, to negative -0.11 in 2018-19, to -0.12 in 2019-20. Nonetheless, Backstrom is still an elite offensive player and fan-favorite in Washington, as his 355 points over that span are incredibly impressive. This season, Backstrom was 4th on Washington in points (54), 2nd in assists (42), 8th in goals (12), 16th in +/- (-1), 5th in giveaway/takeaway ratio (34:28), and 4th in penalty taken/drawn ratio (7:10).


We were interested to see whether or not the Backstrom extension was of fair value according to our arbitration analyzer. When we left the value of his previous contract ($6.7 million) in the analyzer, we determined that an appropriate comparison to Backstrom was Flyers center and Captain Claude Giroux at $8.275 million. From 2015-2020 (the same stretch we discussed in the previous paragraph), Claude Giroux had only ten more points than Backstrom did with similar AB numbers and being the same age. Given that the actual result of the negotiations came out to be $9.2, we believe that the million-dollar difference was the fact that the Capitals were just coming off a Stanley Cup Championship, and that times have changed since Giroux signed his deal on July 4th,2013 (inflation, etc.). In that sense, we believe this is a reasonable contract and a job well done by both parties involved.


Backstrom’s Capitals were one of seven positive teams in terms of team AB score with a +0.09 score, good for 7th best in the league. They are trailing only Colorado (+27.59), Boston (+20.8), St. Louis (+15.88), Tampa Bay (+13.87), Pittsburgh (+8.01), and Philadelphia (+7.39). Should the NHL resume play, Washington would be in a solid position to compete for the franchise’s second Stanley Cup in three seasons as they were buyers at the deadline, trading for Brenden Dillon and Ilya Kovalchuk, and holding a one-point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Prior to the stoppage, Washington had a 41-20-8 record in 69 games, which was good for 90 points, and a 4-3-3 record in their last 10 games. More to come.


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