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|Backlund's career faces crucial season in Calgary|
|Written by Mike Cook|
|Tuesday, 17 July 2012 14:23|
Mikael Backlund is well aware that the short-term contract with the Calgary Flames could lead to greater riches 12 months from now, but he will have to shake off the injuries that riddled his season last year.Mikael Backlund is out to prove he is not a bust.
At age 23 he is aware that he needs a strong 2012-13 season to earn a long-term contract with Calgary, a team that selected him in the first round of the 2007 Draft.
After signing a one-year, $725,000 deal with the team July 5, Backlund took to Twitter (@mbacklund11) to show his appreciation: "So excited for the new deal with the @NHLFlames! Best city, fans and organization. Looking forward to a new change to make a statement in the NHL."
For someone with such promise, the deal looks almost miniscule by NHL standards. However, the number is probably deserved.
Last season was tough for Backlund, who was penciled in as the team’s top-line center between Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay entering training camp. However, he broke a pinky just before the season and missed 14 games.
Coupled with a season-ending shoulder injury Feb. 11, Backlund scored just four goals and seven assists in 41 games, leaving his future wearing red and yellow in doubt.
His goal this year is simple: prove that he can do better, such as the year before when he went 10-15-25 in 73 games. He knows nothing can be taken for granted when one’s goal is to be an elite NHL player.
“The last two weeks, when we started negotiating, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” he told the Calgary Herald. “It’s good to get it done. Now I can focus on training hard and preparing for next season, knowing where I’m going to play.”
General Manager Jay Feaster remains hopeful the young Swede can meet expectations.
"Mikael has an opportunity to step up and attempt to secure a top two-line center position," he said in a statement. "He is a very talented player who skates well, has excellent vision and possesses a strong skill set. As we have discussed with him, Mikael needs to work on his consistency and focus in order to break through in a top-six role and start to define his role on our team."
Backlund is well aware that the short-term contract could lead to greater riches 12 months from now.
“It’s good for both parties,” Backlund said. “I had a tough year, so I understand they’re not 100 percent sure where I stand. And for me, if I have a good year, it’s really good for me . . . and I can get a better contract. If it goes the other way, it wouldn’t be too good, but I’m not planning to have a bad year again.
“I’ll work hard to push myself to have a good year . . . and I hope to get a longer term after next season.”
If Backlund can’t pull his weight up top, the Flames would need to rely on center Jiri Hudler, signed away from Detroit as a free agent, or KHL standout Roman Cervenka.
“We made a decision that (Hudler) was the top guy on our list in terms of filling a top-six forward role,” Feaster told NHL Live. “We view him as a skill guy that we think can come in and play any one of the forward positions. … We also view it as a guy who has more upside and maybe being used in a bigger role will produce even more.”
G Leland Irving is the lone restricted free agent yet to be signed by Calgary. He is expected to battle Henrik Karlsson for the backup position behind Miikka Kiprusoff. … The Colorado Avalanche signed forward Jamie McGinn to a two-year, $3.5 million contract. Acquired Feb. 27 from San Jose, McGinn was 8-5-13 in 17 games with the Avalanche. “Very excited to be back with the @Avalanche for the next two years!” McGinn tweeted. “Congrats @JamieMcGinn64 on your new deal big guy! Expect some big things from this guy Avs fans! #Avs2012-13,” tweeted C Matt Duchene. … The Edmonton Oilers signed D Theo Peckham to a one-year, $1.075 million contract. … Although he claims to be NHL ready, D Oscar Klefbom, selected 19th overall in 2011 by Edmonton, is expected to honor the final year of a contract with his Swedish Elite League team. … The Oilers are reportedly shopping RW Linus Omark. … Through a charitable organization he and his wife, Bridget, founded in 2003, Minnesota Wild F Matt Cullen has donated $1 million to Sanford Health Foundation to, according to a team release, “create a 3,000 square foot Cully’s Kids Area, a one-of-a kind facility for kids to simply be kids while in the hospital – no needles, no medications, just fun. The hockey themed, state-of-the-art therapeutic and educational environment will be staffed by certified child life specialists and likely include areas for play and relaxation, arts and crafts, kitchen projects, a resource library and learning area, a stadium theater and video and interactive area.” … How excited are hockey fans in Minnesota? Approximately 6,500 people showed up for a July 12 scrimmage at the team’s prospect development camp. … Vancouver Canucks G Roberto Luongo finished 634th at the World Series of Poker, winning more than $19,000. … Vancouver GM Mike Gillis recently had a nice day fishing in Panama, hauling in a 140-pound tuna.
Photos by Getty Images
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 10:16|