Looks like that David Backes offer sheet has paid off for the Blues

April, 3, 2009

It's funny how things turn out.

On July 1 (it seems oh so long ago), St. Louis' management team wasn't too thrilled with its peers in Vancouver. On the opening day of free agency, the Canucks signed Blues winger David Backes to a three-year, $7.5 million offer sheet. The Blues didn't waste too much time in matching the offer to keep their player. They definitely wanted to keep Backes, but they probably weren't looking to make that kind of financial commitment. After all, the 24-year-old Minneapolis native was coming off a 13-goal/31-point season. Those aren't exactly the kind of numbers that give you negotiating leverage.

A week later, the Blues returned the favor by tossing a one-year, $2.5M offer sheet at Canucks winger Steve Bernier. Not surprisingly, the Canucks matched the offer.

Some nine months later, Backes is a 30-goal scorer. He reached the plateau by netting a career single-game-high four goals in the Blues' monster 5-4 win in Detroit on Thursday night. He tallied the game-winner at the 15:53 mark of the third period, just 36 seconds after the Wings had tied the game at 4. The victory kept the Blues right in the thick of the wild West playoff race.

Backes' contract probably looks a whole lot better to the Blues. They have their young power forward under contract for two more years at a very reasonable price for that kind of production. Maybe they should send a thank-you note to GM Place.

Backes and his teammates continue their surprising run for a playoff spot in Dallas on Saturday night. After that, they'll travel to Phoenix to face the Coyotes on Tuesday. They finish the season with a Friday home game against the Blue Jackets and a meeting with the Avalanche in Denver on the final day of the regular season (April 12).

Oddly enough, the Blues could win those games and still miss the playoffs. That unlikely scenario would occur if the Ducks and Predators also won their remaining games, while the Blue Jackets gained at least six points in their past five contests.

So how will this race turn out? It's certainly hard to say, but for one of these three teams, it won't be funny.

Burrow-ing along
When you watch a lot of games, you pick up a ton of odd stats. For example, Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows is doing something interesting in Vancouver. In the club's 6-5 shootout loss to the Ducks on Thursday night, Burrows scored a career-best 27th goal. Interestingly, he compiled that total without the benefit of a single power-play goal.

According to the Rogers Sportsnet Pacific broadcast, Burrows is the fifth player in league history to score that many goals in a season without getting at least one power-play goal.

Who are the other names on the list? Winnipeg's Doug Smail tallied 31 goals during the 1984-85 season; Kings winger Mike Donnelly rang up 29 goals in 1991-92; Boston's John Wensink potted 28 goals in 1978-7; and, another Bruins tough guy, Stan Jonathan, scored 27 goals during the 1977-78 season.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.



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