This also virtually ensures that nobody else will be wearing the C until at least 2011. This season, the Hurricanes used three players in a rotating Alternate Captain role.
- Defenseman Glen Wesley, who is 97 years old, will likely retire this summer after finally getting his name on the Cup after 17 years in the league and 4 Cup Finals.
- Left wing Cory Stillman joined the team prior to the 2006 season, and has two years remaining on his contract. He joined an elite club by winning the Cup in consecutive seasons with different teams. He had a very good regular season, scoring 76 points (21/55) in 72 games. With 26 points (9/17) and a +12 rating in the playoffs, he was also a serious Conn Smythe candidate. He'll most likely retain the A.
- Center Kevyn Adams has one year remaining on his contract with the Canes. He has been a fourth-line workhorse and a community favorite since joining the Canes in 2002. He was promoted to "A" prior to this season, which raised a few eyebrows, but made me quite happy.
If Wesley indeed retires, and Carolina decides to stay with the three rotating As, there's a big question about who it would be. Three very likely candidates, who are all restricted free agents:
- Center Eric Staal, who led the team with 100 points (45/55). He was also a strong Conn Smythe candidate, leading the league with 28 playoff points (9/19). This was the final year of his rookie contract, and he will likely command $3.5M next season. Hopefully a long-term contract. And maybe a little brother. He is the future face of this franchise, and Jim Rutherford knows this. This one is a no-brainer. But is he ready to wear an A?
- Right wing Erik Cole was a little tricky last summer, and signed a one year deal. He missed the last 22 games of the regular season and the first 23 games of the playoffs with a C-5 fracture. He scored 59 points (30/29) in 60 games, which was already the best point total of his career. Because he is 27 years old, he will be a restricted free agent, meaning no team can poach him without compensating the Hurricanes handsomely. He provided inspiration to the Canes fans with his recovery from the accident, and has always been a crowd favorite. He got $1.14M this season, and will likely see a big raise. Maybe double that. I'd like to see him in a long term contract, but there's the chance that the Canes will view his injury and susceptibility to a career ending re-injury as a liability. Who knows what'll happen there.
- Right wing Justin "Viva" Williams. Williams is only 24, and is a rising star. His 76 points (31/45) this season were almost double his previous career best. His 18 playoff points (7/11) were very impressive as well. The "new NHL" is perfect for a speedy two-way guy like Viva. There's no reason in the world not to offer him a multi-year deal. Anyway, it would help validate my late-season purchase of his #11 sweater. I haven't worn it yet; I didn't want to mess up the mojo, so I wore the Vasicek #63 for the entire season and playoffs. He was paid $1.225M this season, and was well worth it. I expect to see a three year deal totaling $8M for him. I'm not sure that he's leadership material, so maybe he shouldn't be considered for the A afterall, but he's absolutely a guy that needs to be kept for a long time.
For the record, the League does not allow goaltenders to wear a C or A, so Cam Ward is right out.
The only defenseman I would consider to be worthy of consideration for an A would be AWard. However, he's getting up there in age, he took a beating in the playoffs, and he isn't under contract anymore. Although he's one of my favorite players, and is certainly a leadership-type guy, I just don't see him as a long-term part of this franchise. He should be re-signed on a year-by-year basis.