Chris Kreider
Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers don’t have a captain. Not yet. 

Tab Bamford

Last season, the New York Rangers played with three assistant captains: Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. They did not have anyone wearing a “C” on his chest, however.

It appears that could change in the coming weeks.

When he spoke with the media on Wednesday, new Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant said if he were a betting man he’d bet on the Rangers having a captain for the season opener.

This echoes the sentiments of new GM Chris Drury.

“We can keep moving this thing forward, a big piece of that for me would be getting a captain. For me it’s a priority,” Drury said at Gallant’s introductory press conference. “At the end of the day, it has to be the right person. I’m not interested in giving it to someone to just say we have a captain. I think we have a lot of leaders in our room and leaders that have taken big steps, including the second half of last season.”

So who’s “the right person” to wear the C at MSG?

The (Offensive) Leader

Panarin has the sexy resume on the ice. He’s one of the most dynamic scorers in the league and is an exciting player to watch.

In two years with the Rangers, Panarin has scored 49 goals in 111 regular-season games. Over six NHL seasons with Chicago, Columbus and New York, Panarin has 473 points in 433 games.

He’s a force on the ice. And, based on how his teammates reacted when he was injured last season, he carries a great deal of respect in the room.

If the Rangers want the team’s top offensive weapon to be the face of the franchise and the captain, Panarin could be the guy.

adam fox new york rangers
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Issues

Two players who immediately come to mind as potential captains are Zibanejad and Adam Fox, who won the Norris Trophy after last season.

There’s one big problem with naming either guy the captain, however: they need to get paid.

Both players is in the final year of their current contracts. Zibanejad will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season; Fox will be restricted.

If the Rangers want one of them to be the long-term captain, that obviously means they need a long-term contract to match the captaincy commitment. And Drury hasn’t announced an extension for either player yet.

Why not Kreider?

Kreider is the longest tenured player in the organization and has been a leader over the past few years as young players have joined the NHL roster.

Former Ranger Brian Boyle told NHL.com he believes Kreider checks every box on the list of characteristics of a captain. And he’s right, Kreider is a terrific player and leader.

He’s also already signed long-term. Kreider’s current deal expires after the 2026-27 season and carries a $6.5M cap hit.

However, Kreider is already 30 years old. Does the organization want to put the C on the chest of player that age? Fox is only 23 and could serve in the role for more than a decade (if the organization can get a new deal one with him to cover the next 7-8 years).