If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Erin’s article yesterday about how the Toews/Kane extensions could affect our beloved captain’s contract when he reaches UFA status a few years from now.
The question that naturally arises when considering how much to pay your captain, of course, is this: how valuable is a Captain compared to a Regular Player? Take Jonathan Toews, for instance. How important is he to the Chicago Blackhawks vs. another player with similar scoring? Well, since Toews and Patrick Kane inked identical contracts this week, we can look at the stats to find out this exact thing!
Well, there you go. Towes scored one fewer goal last year, but they are making the same amount of money for the next eight years. Hey, that was easy. We can now say without a doubt that a captain is worth exactly one goal extra to his team.
But just in case this isn’t scientific enough, I went to CapGeek and looked up all the captains within the Central Division to see who besides Benn will be reaching free agency within the next few years. Below, you will find a profile of each captain along with their salary cap hit, their age, and the year they started captaining their teams. (If you aren't familiar with the duties of these guys, captaining a team primarily involves things like lifting the Stanley Cup once everyone finishes booing Gary Bettman, talking to the press about how badly your team played when they lost, and I think chaperoning rookies on dates. You know, captain stuff.)
The actual links are down below, so you can skip there if you already know everything about these guys.
I present: The Team Captains of the Central Division.
(All salary info from CapGeek, like I said already.)
Chicago – Jonathan Toews since 2008 (Age: 26)
Cap hit: $6.3m through 2014-2015, then signed through 2022-23 at cap hit of $10.5m
Well, the complete captain’s captain just captained another team to a great season, which is just what a perfect captain does. I did not know that not taking a hometown discount was also what a captain did, but that shows what I know. On a more prosaic note, Toews is a very good center, often bordering on fantastic. Is he going to be overpaid for the actual production he brings? Yes, definitely, and no one in Chicago will ever care. With their own personal Conn Smythes to display alongside the team’s two championships, Kane and Toews will continue to receive the lion’s share of glory for the great Chicago rebirth, and it’s not exactly undeserved (though Hossa, Sharp and Keith should get a bit of love as well). Toews’ legendary status will only grow the more Kane keeps wearing the "scamp of a little brother" label and beating up cab drivers.
By 2028, that image of the always cool and reasonable Brent Seabrook calming Toews down in the penalty box will be represented with the first in a series of eight statues in Toews’ honor that chronicles his growth from fiery little Kid Captain into the Honorable Dictator of Chicago, finally culminating in a grand bronze display showing his valiant and sacrificial departure from this world when he held up the roof of the ancient and collapsing United Center just long enough to allow all 42,000 fans to escape before everything came crashing down.
Also Toews is good at faceoffs.
Colorado – Gabriel Landeskog since 2012 (Age: 21)
Cap hit: $5.57m Signed through 2020-21
Maturity was what everyone touted (understandably) when the Avalanche named Landeskog the youngest captain in league history. While much of that first season was lost to a concussion, he rebounded well this year, putting up a very respectable 26G 39A line, although a hand injury in the playoffs contributed to Colorado’s first-round loss. He puts in strong board work, using his 220 lb frame well to retrieve and protect the puck. The Avs didn’t waste time signing him to an extension, but so far they look pretty good in this deal, if not quite Tyler Seguin good. The key factor for Landeskog will be (all together now) whether or not he can stay healthy.
By all accounts, Landeskog has grown into his captaincy very nicely, but it will be interesting to see what happens next season in the shadow of Certified Veteran Leaders Iginla and Briere. The hope in Denver is that those two bring battle-tested stability along with some production on the ice, all the while mentoring the captain in the background. The reality is that they should get some good production from Iginla at least in the first year or two of his contract, but the two veterans can really contribute by running media interference after tough losses to protect Landeskog from getting concussed by a boom mic.
Dallas – Jamie Benn since 2013 (Age: 24)
Cap hit: $5.25m Signed through 2016-2017
Ok, you might be thinking this is going to be some glowing yet measured review of Mr. Jamie Benn. But do you know how many assists Jamie Benn had in the playoffs last year? One. ONE measly helper in SIX games. What kind of a captain can’t force his linemates to score goals in the most important games of the season? I will tell you what kind. I used Google.com to search for "Did Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars captain, prove himself worthy with his postseason performance?" Guess what. That search got ZERO results. Zero. The closest this "search engine" came was suggesting that I must have meant to search for some article by a guy on a "sports blog." So you can go read that if you want, but I think I have a better article for you to read, and it is this paragraph. Yeah, I know we were all excited because we got Tyler Seguin from Boston and everything was going to be amazing, but it looks like he and Jamie Benn must have been partying it up at Dave and Buster’s every night during the playoffs, because Seguin only scored one goal and Benn only had one assist and these are supposed to be our Top Guys. "But wait," you will say, because you are a total Dallas fanperson drinking Stars green-aid by the peck. "What about the regular season, those other 82 games that can tell us how good a player is instead of just six weird games during the playoffs?" Ok, mister brilliant person, just look at this: Mr. J. Benn only had THREE goals in the entire SEASON. They’d better give the C to Chiasson this year.
Minnesota – Mikko Koivu since 2009 (Age: 31)
Cap hit: $6.75m Signed through 2017-2018
Probably the lowest-profile captain in the division, Koivu doesn’t exactly light it up on offense. His high in goals for the last three years? 12. He does tend to rack up assists, however, and you can’t discount his very good possession numbers. But even if you’re okay paying nearly $7M a year for a player who is only defensively elite, a captain’s overall contributions are limited when he’s out of the lineup, and it’s been four years since Koivu has played 80 games (his 48 last season notwithstanding), and he is approaching that point in his aging curve that tends to be pretty unforgiving when it comes to injury recovery.
However, it’s probably not time to write him off as a top-six forward, especially for Minnesota. Erik Haula is knocking on the door, but unless the Wild want to shake things up (or perhaps a longer IR stint could force their hand), all things point to Koivu retaining the C for at least another couple of years. But if the kids keep on coming, one doesn’t have to stretch the imagination very far to see Koivu’s time up north ending in 2017 similarly to Morrow’s in Dallas.
Nashville – Shea Weber since 2010 (Age: 28)
Cap hit: $7.86m Signed through 2025-26*
Perhaps the most #1 of all #1 defensemen in the NHL right now (cue debate), you really don’t need to look farther than his contract to understand what he means to this team. While it’s true that the ludicrous term of his current deal came from a Philly offer sheet written in crayon, Nashville was always going to match it. There isn’t a facet of defense that Weber doesn’t excel at, even without Ryan Suter. (How’s that deal working out for Minnesota, by the way?)
While there’s no way Weber is still worth this contract on stats alone in 10 years, he really doesn’t have to be. Nashville matched the offer sheet knowing exactly what they were getting: a large and elite defenseman who can be the face of the franchise for the next decade. There are few if any teams that wouldn’t have done the exact same thing in their situation. (And that’s not even counting the beard factor.)
But yeah, nice try, Flyers.
*if the human race still exists in 2026
St. Louis – David Backes since 2011 (Age: 30)
Cap hit: $4.5m Signed through 2015-16
Here are Backes’ regular season games played since 2007-2008: 72, 82, 79, 82, 82, 48 (lockout) and 74. Put another way, he has only missed 11 of his team’s regular season games over the last six seasons. Of course, the key phrase there is "regular season," as it remains to be seen how Backes will recover from Brent Seabrook’s lovetap during the playoffs. Like Koivu, he doesn't carry his team offensively, as he's only topped 60 points once in his career. But with Paul Stastny arriving, Backes’s job description and quality of competition may well begin to change.
Many Blues fans would also emphasize the important contributions Backes brings in his Leadership™ & Grit,™ and the fact that their round 1 series against Chicago seems to turn around after Backes was knocked out for a couple games may well be evidence of that. Regardless, St. Louis may have a tough decision to make in the next year about re-signing their captain, whose contract will expire in his age 32 season. Some significant playoff success would give Backes a lot of leverage in sticking around unless he’s willing to take a shorter term deal in his last chance for a major payday. Playoff success tends to fix everything.
Winnipeg – Andrew Ladd since 2010 (Age: 28)
Cap hit: $4.4m Signed through 2015-16
Signed by Atlanta during Chicago’s OG cap crunch in 2010, Ladd has lived up to expectations. (unlike Evander Kane, whom Winnipeg seems bound and determined to kick out of their "Cool-but-not-flashy Kids Only" treehouse, but hey, who needs young potential superstars anyway?) His production has been solid, peaking at 46 points in 48 games during last year’s shortened season. Other than that, he’s been one of a few forwards in the 20+ goal/50+ point range on a team that might have some hope of moving past the #9 spot in their conference soon thanks to Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba. Unfortunately, their problem is one that even the most Toews-ian Leadership couldn’t solve: below-average goaltending.
Ladd has also been durable, missing only five games over his past years with the Jets/Thrashers, but Winnipeg is much too thin beneath him to adequately support the modest collection of scorers that they have. Even if Ladd is brought back after his current deal ends, one wouldn’t be altogether shocked to see Trouba or Wheeler sporting the C sooner rather than later. Of course, given that it’s Winnipeg, they’ll probably try to lock up Ladd for another seven years at $7.5 million per season, and Jacob Trouba will be run out of town when he accidentally spells "centre" the American way on Twitter.
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At last, here are your Delectable Links:
Mike Heika was on the Puck Daddy Podcast (I believe it's called Marek Vs. Wyshinski) to talk about how awesome Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars are. [Puck Daddy]
There will be a "celebration" after development camp this year in Sundance Square. I think that's code for a pep rally. [Star Telegram]
...Because Vladimir Sobotka may be ditching his arbitration hearing for the KHL according to Pierre LeBrun. [Twitter]
Here's a look at what Evander Kane might be thinking in Winnipeg. [Puck Daddy]
Could the NHL see 3 on 3 overtime soon? That's one of a few big rules changes coming to overtime in the AHL. Hundred Degree Hockey has the details. [Hundred Degree Hockey]
More Jersey news: The Flyers will have a new 3rd this year. Will this one go the route of the orange Creamsicle and displace their current home sweater? [Broad Street Hockey]