During the NHL's slow news season, a handful of teams have made headlines in recent weeks by naming new captains.
The Winnipeg Jets gave the honor to veteran center Adam Lowry, the Vancouver Canucks named young defenseman Quinn Hughes their new skipper, and the St. Louis Blues tapped Brayden Schenn for the role. Those moves have left seven teams without captains as the 2023-24 season draws near.
With nearly a quarter of the league missing a captain, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the best candidates to fill those vacancies — even if it might take some time for these squads to hand out the "C."
Anaheim Ducks - Troy Terry
Terry is a big part of Anaheim's future, but at the age of 26 he's also a little older and more mature than the rest of its core.
Not only is he signed to a seven-year extension, he already has six NHL seasons under his belt, giving him a little more experience than co-star Trevor Zegras — who is still negotiating an extension of his own.
Terry wore the "A" at times last season and following Ryan Getzlaf's retirement after 2021-22 the team should be ready for a new captain soon.
Cam Fowler is another notable candidate after spending 13 years with the Ducks, but he turns 32 in December, and he's only under contract for three more years.
Arizona Coyotes - Clayton Keller
On a team that's still putting together its core, Keller stands out as the clear face of the franchise. His contract runs longer than any other Coyote, and he recently declared his loyalty to his club in no uncertain terms during an interview with Craig Morgan.
"I love Arizona," he said. "It’s such a great place to live and to play and we have great people in our organization and on our coaching staff. There’s things that make me want to stay. I’ve always been a loyal guy and I don’t believe the grass is always greener somewhere else."
Keller has been wearing an "A" for two seasons, and with seven NHL campaigns under his belt he's truly achieved veteran status.
Boston Bruins - David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand seems like the most obvious choice here, but he's already 35 and Boston is unlikely to name a captain for 2023-24 in the aftermath of Patrice Bergeron's retirement.
The Bruins would be better served letting the "C" breathe for a second so no one has to step immediately into the franchise legend's footsteps.
That leaves space for Pastrnak to slide into the role down the line. He's under contract through 2030-31, still just 27 and clearly the top dog on this team. He's also worn an "A" for the past two seasons.
Calgary Flames - Mikael Backlund
Considering Backlund has openly lobbied for this position, we're happy to call him the top candidate. He's been in Calgary for 15 seasons, he should rank second all-time among Flames in games played by the end of 2023-24, and he's coming off a campaign of stellar two-way play.
The only issues with Backlund are his age (34) and contract status. He isn't under contract past 2023-24, and even if he re-signs with Calgary he won't be around for too much longer.
If the Flames intend to retain him beyond next season, he'd still be a worthy enough candidate to deserve consideration — even if his tenure as captain wouldn't last a decade.
Chicago Blackhawks - Connor Bedard
Bedard hasn't played an NHL game yet, but the Blackhawks are already his team.
Defensemen Seth Jones and Connor Murphy are the only players on the roster signed for at least the next three years, and while both wear an "A" it doesn't make sense to crown them with Bedard looking like the clear future of the franchise.
The Calder Trophy favourite won't be given the captaincy right away, but the Penguins gave Sidney Crosby the "C" after two seasons, and Connor McDavid got picked after his first year.
Bedard might not be on precisely the same schedule, but there's a good chance he follows in the previous generational prospects' footsteps.
Philadelphia Flyers - Joel Farabee
This is a really tough one to guess. The Flyers have plenty of qualified veterans, but most of them have been caught up in trade rumours lately and it's hard to say who will be around for the foreseeable future.
Farabee is under contract through 2027-28 and he's young enough (23) to be a big part of the next Flyers contender. He hasn't proven too much at the NHL level, but he's a homegrown success story locked in with this franchise.
Philadelphia isn't in a rush to make a move like this, but if the team continues to tear its roster down and Farabee continues to develop, he might be the best candidate. Owen Tippett is in a similar spot, but he's still waiting for a long-term deal.
The Flyers might also decide to keep a veteran or two through their rebuild which could give a more established player like Sean Couturier or Scott Laughton a chance to step up.
Seattle Kraken - Jaden Schwartz
The Kraken have plenty of candidates on the squad, but Schwartz stands out because among the team's current alternates, he's under contract the longest.
He also has a stellar playoff resume to his name, which can't be said for Adam Larsson — although Yanni Gourde has two rings to Schwartz's one.
Gourde and Schwartz have similar resumes, but because Gourde was a late bloomer Schwartz has four more seasons and more than 200 more games under his belt. He also chose Seattle in free agency while Gourde was picked in the expansion draft.
The Kraken could wait a couple of years and give the "C" to Matty Beniers, but he's awfully young to take the honor in the near term.