Flames GM wants more from Backlund

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

CALGARY - A year ago, Mikael Backlund was publicly pegged to be the Calgary Flames No. 1 centre.

Now, the Flames are saying it’s high time the 2007 NHL first-round draft choice prove he can be a top-three pivot.

Backlund, due to become a restricted free-agent, is one of the five players who received qualifying offers, but he must negotiate a new deal before the coming season.

In theory, if Backlund and his representatives don’t find an offer to their liking, they could receive an offer sheet from an opposing team, but GM Jay Feaster said he doesn’t see that happening.

“I don’t think Mikael’s in a great bargaining position,” Feaster said. “I don’t think Mikael’s a guy who’s going to get Group 2 offer sheets. I’m not worried about having to match an offer sheet. I suppose if he wants to play in Europe, that’s his prerogative, and he can do that. Otherwise, this is a player who has yet to establish himself as to what he is in the National Hockey League.”

Backlund was to start last season on a line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, but he suffered a broken finger late in training camp. He managed just four goals and 11 points in 41 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. The 23-year-old centre is still developing his game, but the Flames are adamant he must step up.

“Mikael knows from numerous conversations he and I had last year there were many times that he whistled right past the graveyard,” Feaster said. “He was ticketed to go to Abbotsford. He didn’t need waivers to go down. There were a couple of times we told him he was going to go down, and whether there was an injury to a forward, a possible suspension of a forward or ultimately an injury to Mikael, he never was sent down.

“He understands we need more from him and this is an important summer. In my mind, the last thing Mikael Backlund should be concerned about is contract negotiations. It should be training hard and getting ready to establish exactly where it is he fits in at the centre position in training camp.”

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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