WASHINGTON -- One of the keys to negotiating is that you have to show the other side you are willing to walk away if you want to get the upper hand. When it came to negotiating his own contract, Nicklas Backstrom certainly did not do that. He let it be known early and often that Washington was where he wanted to stay and he will after signing a five-year contract extension worth $46 million.
From the outside looking in, the negotiations seemed to go on forever. One of the greatest players in the history of the organization entered a contract year without an extension in hand. The offseason came and went and there was no new deal. The calendar flipped from 2019 to 2020 and there was no new deal.
What was taking so long? Were the two sides far apart? Could Backstrom actually walk at the end of the season?
From Backstrom’s perspective, however, there was never a doubt.
“I had one goal in mind and that was to stay here,” Backstrom said. “I think personally, I always dreamed of finishing my career here and hopefully that will be the case. I love the city, I love the fans and love the organization so it was no doubt in my mind. It would be really weird to put on a different jersey.”
Backstrom elected to negotiate directly with the team without an agent, giving him full control over the process. When asked if at any point he had any doubt he would be returning to Washington, Backstrom answered no.
And it doesn’t seem like Backstrom gave up all that much to make that a reality.
Backstrom’s new deal comes with a healthy raise of $2.5 million per year, giving him a cap hit of $9.2 million. It also comes with a full no-movement clause for the first three years and a limited no-trade clause in the final two.
Perhaps the 32-year old center could have gotten a better deal on the open market, but he was never interested.
“I don't really care what would have happened if I went on the open market or whatever, but I didn't want to take that chance first of all,” Backstrom said. “I wanted to stay here and I wanted to make a deal that worked for both sides and I want to win and that is what I want to do. [General Brian MacLellan] has been so good at managing the team so far so I think we can do it again."
But there was a time when it looked like winning was not something Washington could provide.
Before the 2018 Cup run, frustration was rampant throughout the city and throughout the locker room as the team fell short in the playoffs again and again.
Even with analysts speculating that the team needed to trade away its stars and start over, even when it felt like the team would never get over the hump, Backstrom never wavered from his love of the city or his desire to be a Capital.
“I think it frustrated everyone. ... But I always wanted to stay here," Backstrom said. "That was my No. 1 priority. I love this organization. I probably would have done the same thing, just keep signing here and hopefully win."
“You are recognized when you are with the same team for a long time and that is what I want to be,” he added. “I am a born and raised Capital and that is where I want to finish. I couldn't see myself in another jersey and I don't want to play for another team so fortunately, very fortunate to be able to sign a new contract."
Backstrom broke all the rules of negotiating, made it clear he wanted to stay and still managed to negotiate a big raise for himself in a five-year contract.
Sounds like Backstrom may have a future at this kind of thing.
“I found him to be very professional, well-prepared, probably a little stubborn at times,” MacLellan said. “He’s been an open and honest communicator and I think the process went as well as we could expect it. My only concern going forward is that maybe [Alex Ovechkin] might hire Nick to do his next contract.”
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