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Backstrom steps away from Capitals amid ongoing injury situation

Richard T Gagnon / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is stepping away from hockey indefinitely, he announced Wednesday.

"Given my ongoing injury situation, I decided to take some time and step away from the game. This is a difficult decision, but one that I feel is right for my health at this time," Backstrom said. "I want to thank my teammates, the organization, and fans for their unwavering support throughout this process. I ask for privacy at this time as I determine my next steps and viable options moving forward."

Backstrom, who turns 36 on Nov. 23, underwent hip resurfacing surgery in the 2022 offseason and has struggled to regain his prior form. He tallied 21 points in 39 games last season and one assist in eight contests so far in 2023-24. His ice time has plummeted to a career-low 14:34 this season.

"We stand behind Nicklas and will support him throughout this process," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We know firsthand how hard he has worked and how determined he is to get back to full health. Our organization stands fully behind him while he takes his leave of absence from the team and takes time to evaluate his current health situation."

Backstrom has two years remaining on his contract with a $9.2-million cap hit.

Players who have undergone hip resurfacing surgery haven't typically enjoyed successful returns. Ed Jovanovski was one of the first athletes in the major four professional sports to have the procedure and return to action, but he only played 37 more games. Ryan Kesler had the surgery in 2019 but never played again. Free agent Patrick Kane is currently trying to make his way back from the same procedure.

Backstrom had been one of the game's premier playmaking centers since entering the league in 2007-08, ranking third behind only Sidney Crosby and Kane with 762 assists in that span.

The Swede's best season was in 2009-10 when he set career highs with 33 goals, 68 assists, and 101 points. He also led the league with 60 helpers in 2014-15 and finished as high as seventh in Selke Trophy voting in 2016-17, highlighting his strong two-way game in his prime.

The Capitals drafted Backstrom fourth overall in 2006, and he's arguably the second-best player in franchise history behind longtime linemate Alex Ovechkin. Backstrom ranks second in franchise history in games played (1,105) and points (1,033) and is first in assists.

Backstrom was integral to Washington's 2018 Stanley Cup title, producing 23 points in 20 postseason contests that year. For his career, he's recorded 114 points in 139 playoff games.

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