Nicklas Backstrom’s last time on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex is now more than a month ago. The concussion suffered Jan. 3 has knocked the Washington Capitals star out of action for 24 games and almost two months.
On Monday the Caps put Backstrom on long-term injured reserve as a way of clearing cap space “the event that something big presented itself” ahead of the trade deadline. It did not.
Asked if he expects Backstrom to play again this season, general manager George McPhee didn’t have any kind of prognosis.
“Don’t know,” he said. “Hope so but we don’t know.”
Backstrom has been riding a stationary bike recently, according to coach Dale Hunter, but he hasn’t skated since Jan. 23. That time he wore just a sweatsuit and a hat and came off after just five minutes of light skating.
Asked again about Backstrom possibly returning, McPhee was not expansive.
“I don’t have an answer for you on that. I wish I did,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to plan if you have an answer. But I don’t have an answer.”
But McPhee said uncertainty about Backstrom’s status did not play a role in his standing pat at the deadline.
“Not necessarily. If there was a way to help the club today we would have done it. But if you look at all the deals that have happened, I just couldn’t see anything that makes us better,” McPhee said. “Certainly, we even thought in terms of, this deal, if we did do something, has to be better than something that we could bring up from Hershey. Cody Eakin, or someone like that. There wasn’t anything that was better.”