The NHL is about to start its 2023–24 season and as teams figure out their rosters, there remain a few teams that will play without a captain for the season. The Calgary Flames will not be one of them as they’ve named Mikael Backlund as the newest captain. Only a few other teams will be without a captain but the most notable captainless team would be the Chicago Blackhawks, whose decision to not re-sign long-time captain Jonathan Toews and not name a captain for the upcoming year marks a major shift for the franchise.
The Flames had a plethora of options to pick from for a potential captain. Promoting an alternate captain such as Mikael Backlund or Chris Tanev up the ranks, or naming a new face entirely like Rasmus Andersson or MacKenzie Weegar were all viable options. While there was no wrong choice per se, naming Backlund captain was absolutely the right choice. Backlund is one of the most effective two-way players in the league, and with Patrice Bergeron‘s retirement, Backlund may just be a favourite for the Selky Trophy with his expected play and proven results.
Now that his contract details are known, where would the cap hit place Backlund among the league’s captains? Let’s break it all down.
Captain cap hits
Using data from CapFriendly.com, these are the cap hits for all current NHL captains heading into 2023–24.
Of course, Connor McDavid has the highest cap hit among captains with his $12.5M. Just three other captains break into the eight-digit cap hit mark with John Tavares, Aleksander Barkov, and Anze Kopitar amassing the riches while leading their teams.
The lowest-paid captain in the league is Kyle Okposo, who re-signed on a one-year deal worth just $2.5M. In parallel to the highest-paid captains, coincidentally only three other captains have a cap hit of lower than $4.0M: Jordan Staal, Adam Lowry, and Boone Jenner.
The total cap hit of all current captains breaks just north of the $200.0M mark at a sum total of $206,089,714. The seemingly random ending to the number is attributed to none other than Brady Tkachuk, whose cap hit of $8,205,714 adds more fun than just a string of all zeroes.
The average cap hit of an NHL captain clocks in at $7,720,758. Of course, contracts aren’t handed out based on captaincies, but there’s a clear correlation that captains do ultimately get paid.
|Edmonton Oilers||Connor McDavid||$12,500,000|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||John Tavares||$11,000,000|
|Florida Panthers||Aleksander Barkov||$10,000,000|
|Los Angeles Kings||Anze Kopitar||$10,000,000|
|Dallas Stars||Jamie Benn||$9,500,000|
|Vegas Golden Knights||Mark Stone||$9,500,000|
|Washington Capitals||Alex Ovechkin||$9,500,000|
|Nashville Predators||Roman Josi||$9,059,000|
|Detroit Red Wings||Dylan Larkin||$8,700,000|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Sidney Crosby||$8,700,000|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Steven Stamkos||$8,500,000|
|Ottawa Senators||Brady Tkachuk||$8,205,714|
|New York Rangers||Jacob Trouba||$8,000,000|
|San Jose Sharks||Logan Couture||$8,000,000|
|Montreal Canadiens||Nick Suzuki||$7,875,000|
|Vancouver Canucks||Quinn Hughes||$7,850,000|
|Minnesota Wild||Jared Spurgeon||$7,575,000|
|New Jersey Devils||Nico Hischier||$7,250,000|
|Colorado Avalanche||Gabriel Landeskog||$7,000,000|
|New York Islanders||Anders Lee||$7,000,000|
|St. Louis Blues||Brayden Schenn||$6,500,000|
|Boston Bruins||Brad Marchand||$6,125,000|
|Calgary Flames||Mikael Backlund||$5,350,000 ($4,500,000)|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Boone Jenner||$3,750,000|
|Winnipeg Jets||Adam Lowry||$3,250,000|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Jordan Staal||$2,900,000|
|Buffalo Sabres||Kyle Okposo||$2,500,000|
Backlund’s cap hit for 2023–24 is $5.35M, while his $4.5M cap hit kicks in for 2024–25. Coincidentally, neither cap hit moves him up or down the rankings for captain salaries at the moment.
What’s next for the Flames
Backlund slots in at the lower end among captains. It was clearly a discounted contract, especially after initial predictions had it being closer to $5.5M. Among captains, the deal looks as cheap as can be. Only four other captains will be seeing smaller paycheques than Backlund.
At the end of the day, it isn’t so much about the cap hit at all for who the captain is, it’s about who’s the fittest person to lead the Flames to success year after year. Backlund is the guy. He is him.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire