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Hurricanes to name captain before season

GM says Carolina has 'guys who are capable' after using four alternates in 2016-17

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes plan to name their new captain prior to the start of the season, general manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters said Tuesday.

Carolina had four alternate captains last season: forwards Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask, and defensemen Justin Faulk. They have not had a captain since forward Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 28, 2016.

"We'd like to get through training camp and see how things play out," Francis said. "Our last exhibition game is on a Friday (Sept. 29), and the season doesn't start until the following Saturday (Oct. 7). If things go the way we think over the course of training camp, we hope to name a captain and the assistants in the week leading up to the season.

"There's a lot of different ways we could look at it. That's why we want to get into camp and see how things play out. The good thing is we feel like we have guys who are capable of being that guy."

There has been talk that Justin Williams, who signed a two-year contract on July 1, could be a candidate. The forward, who turns 36 on Oct. 4, won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. Earlier this offseason, Williams downplayed his interest in becoming Hurricanes captain but acknowledged that his achievements, including winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014, help his voice count in the dressing room.

"That gives me a little credibility for what I'm saying, and that's important, (but) I'm coming here to be me," Williams said. "If you talk too much, your message is going to get lost."

Last season, Peters defended the decision to have four alternates, saying the Hurricanes had several capable leaders among the young team. However, he did not say Tuesday that the organization has determined which player would be named captain.

"Not really," Peters said. "We're going to have one for sure. We're going to have one before the regular season starts. We will sort it out through camp. Leadership is not an issue, but we will have a captain."

Francis was captain of the Hurricanes from 1999-2004. Rod Brind'Amour, now an assistant coach with Carolina, held the role from 2005-10, and Staal was captain from Jan. 20, 2010 until his trade.

"I was a captain for a lot of years," Francis said. "It was never just me in the locker room. It was a group of guys who led that team. What we're hoping for with a younger group is to give those guys that responsibility and see them grow and mature. Maybe it comes from the young guys, maybe it's an older guy taking care of the younger guys."

Jordan Staal, who has served as an alternate during all five of his seasons in Carolina, says a captain is needed.

"I wouldn't say (four alternates) didn't work, but I think we could definitely use a captain," the forward said. "It's been a long enough lull between losing Eric. There's always a group of guys that will lead a team, and it's not just the captain that does all of it. It's a select few that can read the room and relay things through the coaches. It's not essential, but it wouldn't hurt."

The Hurricanes are one of six NHL teams without a captain (Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights).

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