It’s officially the end of an era for the Philadelphia Flyers. Claude Giroux, after 15 seasons in Philadelphia, has been traded to the Florida Panthers. Now, for the first time in a decade, the Flyers need to name a new team captain.
It might not happen immediately — some teams choose to go captain-less until a player becomes the unquestioned leader of the locker room. The New York Rangers, for example, haven’t had a captain since the departure of Ryan McDonagh in 2018. But at some point, the Flyers will need to make a decision as to who will become the 20th player in franchise history to wear a “C” on his sweater.
If the Flyers opt to name a new captain as early as the 2022-23 season, though, there are some reasonable candidates expected to be in the running for the honor.
Couturier is an obvious option to be Giroux’s heir apparent as team captain. Making his NHL debut in 2011, he’s now the longest-tenured Flyer on the roster and already has an “A” on his chest. And, of course, he’s arguably the team’s best player without Giroux in the fold.
The Arizona-born forward is just a couple years removed from winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward. In 721 career games — all with the Flyers — Couturier has logged 180 goals and 460 total points. However, he’s been particularly strong offensively the last five seasons, posting 110 goals and 269 total points in 305 games during that span.
Couturier has only played 29 games this season and will miss the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign after undergoing back surgery in February. Still, the 29-year-old remains a key piece of the Flyers’ remaining core.
The Flyers signed Couturier to an eight-year, $62 million contract extension last summer, so the three-time Bobby Clarke Trophy winner will be around for a while.
Laughton has emerged as a fan favorite in recent years, and many consider him a logical candidate to take over the Flyers’ captaincy.
While Laughton has never been in the running for a Selke Trophy like Couturier consistently is, he did win the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy — awarded to the “Flyer who has most improved from the previous season, as voted by his teammates” — for the 2019-20 season. Laughton is one of the more beloved players in the Flyers’ locker room, and he is expected to take on a much larger role with Giroux now in Florida.
The Flyers selected Laughton in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s stayed within the organization ever since. In 428 games as a Flyer, the soon-to-be 28-year-old has logged 64 goals and 154 total points.
The Flyers signed Laughton to a five-year, $15 million contract last April, which will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2025-26 season.
Hayes’ tenure as a Flyer has been brief, but he’s already become a fan favorite for his fun-loving personality and, of course, his strong play on the ice (when healthy).
It isn’t just the fans who have grown to appreciate Hayes, either. He’s also become one of the primary leaders in the locker room. Hayes is highly respected across the league, and this was exhibited earlier this season when the hockey world gathered to show support for him while he mourned the tragic loss of his older brother Jimmy.
Acquired from the Winnipeg Jets ahead of the 2019-20 season, Hayes has logged 42 goals and 88 total points in 152 games as a member of the Flyers. Injuries have hampered his productivity for much of the season, but he remains a key component of the Flyers’ roster as the team’s second-line center. And with four years remaining on the seven-year contract he signed in 2019, he’ll be in Philadelphia for some time.
Like Hayes, Atkinson hasn’t been a Flyer for long. In fact, after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets just last summer, he hasn’t even played a full season with the Flyers. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of consideration for the captaincy.
Atkinson has arguably been the Flyers’ top offensive weapon this season — even before Giroux was moved to Florida. He leads the team in goals (23) and points (47), and he’s been trusted with important minutes on both the power play and penalty kill since his arrival.
Atkinson, 32, is one of the oldest players on the Flyers’ roster, though he certainly doesn’t look like it. He also has a pretty respectable amount of playoff experience (10 goals, 26 points in 35 postseason games) under his belt. After this season, he will have three years remaining on his contract.
This one’s a long shot, but it sure would be fun.
Farabee may be young, but many are already expecting the 22-year-old to take a big step forward in Giroux’s absence. In fact, Giroux himself believes Farabee has a very bright future ahead of him in Philadelphia.
“I’ve been telling Joel since Day 1 that he’s gonna be an elite player in this league,” said Giroux after his 1,000th game. “Not only because he can score goals, but the way he plays defensively, how he has the right attitude during the game — he doesn’t take crap from anybody, and it’s just that attitude, it’s gonna bring him to a great place in his career.”
It’s rare that 22-year-olds are trusted to wear the “C” on their chest, so Farabee likely will have to wait before he gets a realistic shot at earning legitimate captaincy consideration. Still, it’s clear the Flyers believe Farabee will be a very good player for a long time. They signed him to a six-year, $30 million contract extension last summer to keep him in Philadelphia through 2027-28 season, and if all goes according to plan as he approaches his age-related prime, he could become a true franchise cornerstone — if he isn’t already.