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Stanley Cup handoff offers many options for playoff captains

A look at who could get first pass at conclusion of postseason

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Every player dreams of winning the Stanley Cup. Once NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hands it to the captain of the winning team, the question becomes who will receive it next. 

In 2001, Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic didn't lift the Cup, but handed it to 22-year veteran defenseman Ray Bourque. In 2015, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews gave it to defenseman Kimmo Timonen, 40, a 16-year veteran who didn't know if he'd play hockey again because of blood clots a few months earlier and had announced he would retire once the season ended. 

Who could get the first handoff this spring? A rookie, veteran or someone who's already lifted it before?

Here's a look at who could get the first pass for each of the 16 teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:


Anaheim Ducks: Captain Ryan Getzlaf to goalie Ryan Miller

Getzlaf, who was in his second NHL season when the Ducks won the Cup in 2007, has been captain since 2010-11. He's played in 917 regular-season games. Miller, 37, has played in 737 games and has never been to a Cup Final, making it as far as the conference final two straight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres (2005-07). He also played a big role filling in when starter John Gibson was injured.

Second choice: Jason Chimera


Boston Bruins: Captain Zdeno Chara to forward Rick Nash

Chara, 41, is the longest-tenured captain in the League, having had that honor since the 2006-07 season. He lifted the Cup in 2011 and handed it to veteran Mark Recchi, who won it twice before. This time, it'll be Nash, 33, a veteran of 15 NHL seasons acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on Feb. 25. Nash was three games short of winning the Cup in 2014, when the Rangers lost the Final to the Los Angeles Kings.

Second choice: David Backes 


Columbus Blue Jackets: Captain Nick Foligno to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

If Columbus wins the Cup, they will have gone through two tough Metropolitan Division rivals to do it, and there's a good chance Bobrovsky will have stood on his head to get them there. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner had an excellent season (37-22-6, 2.42 goals-against average, .921 save percentage). If he responds from the disappointment of last season, when the Blue Jackets were eliminated from the Eastern Conference First Round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games, Foligno will likely hand him the Cup first.

Second choice: Thomas Vanek


Colorado Avalanche: Captain Gabriel Landeskog to defenseman Erik Johnson

The Avalanche were 22-56-4 with 48 points last season, finishing last in the League. They ended this season with 21 more wins and almost double their points (95). There aren't many players who have been with the Avalanche throughout their rebuilding phase (they last made the playoffs in 2013-14), but Johnson is one of them. He's the longest-tenured member in Colorado, spending eight seasons there, so Landeskog could hand it to the veteran defenseman.

Second choice: Nathan MacKinnon


Los Angeles Kings: Captain Anze Kopitar to defenseman Dion Phaneuf

Kopitar has lifted the Cup twice (2012, 2014), but this would be his first time receiving it from Commissioner Bettman as captain. Ten players remain from the 2012 team that won the title, so there wouldn't be a lot of first-timers here. However, Phaneuf is one. Acquired with center Nate Thompson in a trade with the Ottawa Senators for forwards Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore on Feb. 13, Phaneuf has fit in nicely on the ice and in the locker room with Los Angeles, and has quickly earned respect from his new teammates.

Second choice: Jonathan Quick


Minnesota Wild: Captain Mikko Koivu to defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise

How fitting would it be for Koivu to hand the Cup to Suter and Parise at the same time? The longtime best friends signed identical 13-year, $98 million contracts with Minnesota on July 4, 2012 and the Wild have made the playoffs in each of the six seasons since. Suter and Parise would take a lap with each holding one end of the silver chalice.

Second choice: Eric Staal


Nashville Predators: Captain Roman Josi to center Mike Fisher

Josi was named Predators captain prior to the season after Fisher, the former captain, retired following their run to the Stanley Cup Final last season. If the Predators can complete the job after falling to the Penguins in six games in 2017, there's a good chance Josi could immediately hand the Cup to Fisher, 37, who came out of retirement in March and rejoined Nashville. Fisher would then hand it to wife and country music star Carrie Underwood.

Second choice: Pekka Rinne


New Jersey Devils: Captain Andy Greene to center Travis Zajac

One choice would be Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall. However, Greene has been with the Devils since 2006-07 and will reward another veteran. Greene's 12 seasons ties him with Zajac for the longest-serving members on the roster. The two have been through the ups and downs with New Jersey, from finishing last in the Eastern Conference last season, to coming within two wins of the Cup in 2012. If New Jersey gets it done, Greene could hand off to Zajac.

Second choice: Taylor Hall


Philadelphia Flyers: Captain Claude Giroux to forward Jakub Voracek

If the luck in Philadelphia continues -- the Eagles won the Super Bowl and Villanova won the NCAA Division I men's basketball title -- who would Giroux give the Cup to? Giroux had 102 points this season and many of his 34 goals came on assists from Voracek, who had 65 (fourth in the League). The two have consistently been among the best players for the Flyers year in and year out, so it would only be fair for one to hand off to the other.

Second choice: Wayne Simmonds


Pittsburgh Penguins: Captain Sidney Crosby to center Derick Brassard

Crosby has lifted the Cup three times and each time, he's handed off to a veteran. In 2009, it was forward Bill Guerin, who won the Cup with the Devils 14 years prior. In 2016, it was 12-season veteran defenseman Trevor Daley, and in 2017, defenseman Ron Hainsey, who played 13 seasons before making his playoff debut. If the Penguins win their fourth championship in 10 years, it could be Brassard, an 11-season NHL veteran acquired in a three-team trade with the Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 23, and one of a handful of players on the Penguins who hasn't won the Cup.

Second choice: Kris Letang


San Jose Sharks: Captain Joe Pavelski to forward Joe Thornton

Two words: Joe Thornton. Even if the injured forward doesn't return for the playoffs, you can guarantee the 38-year-old likely Hockey Hall of Famer will be on the ice front and center if the Sharks win the Cup. Pavelski might not even lift it over his head before handing it to veteran of 19 seasons who ranks 16th all-time in scoring.

Second choice: Brent Burns


Tampa Bay Lightning: Captain Steven Stamkos to forward Nikita Kucherov

The Lightning came within two wins of the Cup in 2015, but fell short against the Chicago Blackhawks. If they win it this season, Stamkos will have some options for the first pass. It probably won't be Chris Kunitz, the only active player to win the Cup four times. It could be longtime linemate Kucherov, who finished third in the League with 100 points this season.

Second choice: Victor Hedman


Toronto Maple Leafs: Alternate captain Morgan Rielly to Patrick Marleau

Toronto does not have a captain, but has rotated between defenseman Reilly, and forwards Marleau, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komorov. The first question is, which of them would accept the Cup from the commissioner? If it isn't Marleau, the veteran of 20 NHL seasons likely will receive the handoff. If it is, an out-of-the-box choice could be Bozak, who is the longest-tenured player on the Maple Leafs (2009-10).

Second choice: Auston Matthews


Vegas Golden Knights: Alternate captain Deryk Engelland to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury

The other team in the playoffs without a captain, Vegas has used alternates, mostly forwards James Neal, David Perron and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and defenseman Engelland. There's a good chance Engelland, who lives in Las Vegas and was selected by Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, will take the Cup from Commissioner Bettman. Odds are he hands it to Fleury, who became the face of the Golden Knights before they played a game.

Second choice: William Karlsson


Washington Capitals: Captain Alex Ovechkin to center Nicklas Backstrom

If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup, there's almost no question who would receive the Cup from Ovechkin. It likely would be linemate Backstrom, his teammate for 11 seasons who has assisted on 230 of Ovechkin's 607 NHL goals. The captain should return the favor this time, setting up his running mate. 

Second choice: Braden Holtby


Winnipeg Jets: Captain Blake Wheeler to forward Bryan Little

Patrik Laine? Connor Hellebuyck? Dustin Byfuglien? All good options, but Wheeler should reward the longest-tenured member of the organization, which is Little. Selected by the Atlanta Thrashers with the No. 12 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Little played four seasons there before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg and has endured playing on some not-so-great teams. Getting the handoff would be fitting.

Second choice: Mark Scheifele

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