The 35-year-old underwent resurfacing surgery on his left hip in June 2022 and returned to the team in January 2023. Backstrom returned to record seven goals and 21 points in 39 games last season while averaging less than 17 minutes per game.
This season, however, has seen him muster one point through eight games while averaging 14:33 minutes in ice time per game.
“Given my ongoing injury situation, I decided to take some time and step away from the game,” Backstrom said in a statement. “This is a difficult decision, but one that I feel is right for my health at this time. 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.”
This season saw the Capitals use Backstrom, a venerable top-six center for the majority of his career, to anchor their third line. Dylan Strome has centered the first line, and Evgeny Kuznetsov has been on the second line.
Washington could seek to fill that void with Connor McMichael, who has three points in eight games this season.
As for Backstrom, he was the team’s first-round pick in 2006. He has spent the entirety of his career with the club and was a core member of the Capitals squad that won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2018.
Backstrom is also the franchise’s career leader in assists (762) in addition to being second in games played (1,105) and points (1,033) behind Alexander Ovechkin.
“We stand behind Nicklas and will support him throughout this process,” Capitals president of hockey operations and general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement released by the team. “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.”