The New Jersey Devils are on the quest for a new captain. The team surprisingly traded their former captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders back in February. New Jersey rotated the “A” around with Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac to close out 2020.
The Devils are a young team with a lot to prove in 2021, and they officially closed the book on the Greene captaincy era. How do the Devils move forward? Well, the Devils brought back general manager Tom Fitzgerald and signed Lindy Ruff to be the next head coach. They are still searching for the next man up to lead the team through the next phase of the rebuild. Who will the Devils choose to step up and lead this rather young group of players?
Candidate #1: Nico Hischier
Nico is the favorite to become the next captain of the Devils and for good reason. The former first overall pick is signed with New Jersey through 2027, which is the longest contract on the team. If the Devils give Nico the “C”, he would be captain for the next seven years. If the Devils decide to bring him back when his contract expires, he will still be in the middle of his prime at the age of 28, he could be Devils captain for even longer.
The Switzerland native is a beast of a hockey player and arguably is the best player on the roster. #13 will be a staple in the Garden State for years to come and Nico could be the perfect captain if he can keep the team motivated and hungry for many seasons to come. I think he is the most logical choice to become the next captain.
Candidate #2: Kyle Palmieri
“Palms” has been one of the better players on the roster for the past few seasons and is a good locker room presence as well. The New Jersey native also does a lot of charity work off the ice through his Kyle Palmieri Foundation to give back to veterans. However, there is one problem that lies. Palmieri is set to become a free agent next summer unless he signs an extension to stay in Jersey. If Palmieri does not return in 2021-22, he would only have been Devils captain for a sole season. This would be similar to the Zach Parise. Parise was awarded the “C” but left for Minnesota in free agency. There is a chance that things will work between Palmieri and the Devils, but he might go where extra money is offered.
The Devils need goal scoring and bringing back Palms would make sense. New Jersey still has a ton of cap room so an extension is most certainly possible. Personally, I think naming Palmieri captain would be a great choice if New Jersey extends him. He is a great locker room presence and is a player and a person you’d want to stick around.
Candidate #3: Travis Zajac
Zajac is currently the longest-tenured Devil. He has stuck with the organization through the highs and the lows. Zajac has been a great two-way center and the team’s best faceoff man for a while now. However, the problem here would be his age. Zajac is currently 35-years-old. Zajac is a good candidate because of his experience, but how much does he have left in the tank before he retires?
To add to that, he is only under contract for one more season, similar to Palmeri in a sense. This might possibly make him a captain for only one year. As much as I would like to see Zajac rewarded for his loyalty to the team, I doubt he is given the captaincy.
There are some other options to earn the “C” on their sweater such as Damon Severson, P.K. Subban, and Jack Hughes. Severson has been with the team since 2014 and has a very solid amount of experience. He can end up being around for a while as well because he is only 26-years-old, but I think he should be considered as an assistant captain. P.K. Subban is one of the most outgoing players in the game. He has only been in Jersey for one season in which his play was awful, but is a very positive influence in the locker room. He would be a solid candidate but is a free agent in 2022, and the Devils may not protect him in the upcoming expansion draft. Lastly, I think Jack Hughes should have more experience before he is considered to be a captain. He had a bit of a rough time last season and he has a lot of room to improve and grow.
Personally, I think the top choice to be the next captain of the New Jersey Devils is Nico Hischier. He is going to be around till 2027 and possibly more years after that. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac are in consideration as well, but both are set to become free agents following the 2021 season. I believe all three of these players are deserving of the captaincy, but Nico Hischier is the most logical choice.