As the familiar faces return to Raleigh to prepare for the upcoming season, one stalwart is returning with a new contract: the captain, Jordan Staal. Staal returns for his 12th season in red and black. The Thunderbay, Ontario native has been the definition of Carolina hockey and will be for another four seasons.
Scoring 17 goals last season, Staal was rewarded with a new four-year contract that will be a $2.9 million hit against the salary cap. A slightly steep contract for a 35-year-old, checking forward but an essential piece to this team nonetheless.
The former Pittsburgh Penguins center has had a stellar career and provided important moments in the Canes history while being an exemplary leader but who is fit to take the reigns from Staal when that time comes?
Whether the second overall pick from the 2006 NHL draft completes the four years of his contract remains to be seen. Staal has played a lot of hard minutes and games in the NHL, 1,173 to be exact.
The last year of his contract would make him 39 years young.
Either way, the end of his contract will be a time for a new voice and leader to take control of this group and onward to the next decade. That voice is more than likely on this roster currently.
The current assistant captains are Jaccob Slavin, Jordan Martinook, and Sebastian Aho.
Personally, I think that Slavin would make a phenomenal captain but being close to 30 and his contract expiring after the following season, that may not be in the cards.
For the short term, Slavin would be phenomenal to fill in for Staal in the unfortunate case of an injury.
Long-term the top candidate would be Aho as he signed a new long-term contract and is just 26 years old despite already playing 7 seasons in Carolina.
Aho has been a leader by example and has continued to play well, producing 5 straight 50+ point seasons. Additionally, Aho is an extremely reliable center in the defensive zone and in the face-off circle.
Because of these facts, Aho is in line to be the next captain sooner than later.
A wild card choice would be a player like Seth Jarvis. He has had an immediate impact on and off the ice since coming to Raleigh. He is greatly loved in the locker room at just the age of 21.
Jarvis has gotten better and better in all facets of his game and could take an even bigger step this season. With his personality, he could be the perfect fit to take the “C” from Staal.
Either way, this team is full of character, both young and old. When the time comes for Staal to pass the captaincy onto another player, the choice will be a difficult one.