GREENBURGH, N.Y. — A day after the Rangers finalized Mika Zibanejad’s $68-million contract extension, they had some other finalizing to do on Monday before Wednesday’s season opener at Washington.
In addition to setting the 23-man roster for opening night, coach Gerard Gallant decided not to name a captain. Instead, Gallant named six alternate captains, with Zibanejad being one of them.
The others are Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome and Barclay Goodrow.
"This is the direction I feel the most comfortable with," Gallant said. "I feel very strongly about it, and I think when we talked to our players this morning, they were in agreement."
Gallant had indicated during training camp that he was planning to name someone as the Rangers’ first captain since Ryan McDonagh in 2018.
General manager Chris Drury – himself a Rangers captain from 2008-11 – is in favor of a team having one. But he left the decision to Gallant.
"I'm not going to tell you the truth every time," Gallant said. "But there were discussions about having a captain. There were a lot of discussions about what I've had in the past [with Las Vegas], and when Dru told me, ‘Ultimately you're going to make the final decision on this,’ that's what I came up with. That's what I feel very comfortable with with our group. The six guys, they’re all legitimate captains. They’re all good leaders. I just feel very strongly with this group -- and me being with them only a month -- we're taking the best direction and that's going to help our team the most."
Zibanejad, whose eight-year extension starts next season, said of not having a captain: "I don't mind that at all. We have great leaders. We’ve had great leaders in this locker room and then we added some more guys to that leadership group and I feel really good. Everyone contributes and, just as a team, I feel like that's something good and that's obviously something that coach wanted, what he feels comfortable with, and so do we."
Of his extension, Zibanejad said: "When I got presented this offer, I was happy with it. Overall, I think it's a good deal for me. I love it, and I think it's a good deal for the Rangers, as well . . . It's been a great five years so far and that's why I'm so happy to be here for many more."
The Rangers set their opening night roster by assigning Morgan Barron, Vitali Kravtsov and Greg McKegg to Hartford (AHL). The 23-man roster: forwards (13): Sammy Blais, Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, Goodrow, Dryden Hunt, Kaapo Kakko, Kreider, Alexis Lafreniere, Panarin, Ryan Reaves, Kevin Rooney, Strome, Zibanejad; defensemen (8): Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, Nils Lundkvist, K’Andre Miller, Patrik Nemeth, Jarred Tinordi, Trouba; goaltenders (2): Alexandar Georgiev, Igor Shesterkin . . . Strome and Reaves skated in practice and should be ready for the opener . . . D Nils Lundkvist won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award as the top rookie in training camp.