The Columbus Blue Jackets will need to turn to Plan B to find their new C.
It was widely assumed that, in their quest to extend defenseman Seth Jones to a long term deal, the Blue Jackets would offer Jones the role of team captain.
Saturday's news that Jones is not interested re-signing with the team led to Sunday's chatter that (pending a change of heart) the Blue Jackets are likely to trade the four-time All-Star before the start of next season, sources told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
Regardless of whether or not a deal comes to fruition, the 26-year-old defenseman is assuredly out of contention to be named the 7th captain in franchise history. Even if Jones were to have a change of heart, the optics of immediately naming him captain after such news would be damning.
With Jones in the rearview mirror for the honor, here are five possibilities for the next "C"BJ:
#5: No Captain
If Columbus were to go this route, it wouldn't be the first time the team went without a captain to start the season. After Rick Nash was traded to the New York Rangers, the Blue Jackets went more than three full seasons without giving the "C" out. That changed when Nick Foligno became captain for the 2015-16 season, a title he would keep until being dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs at this season's trade deadline.
Those teams were younger, but before the idea is completely dismissed, it was the newly-rehired John Davidson who was at the helm when the decision was made to go without a full-time "C" from 2012 until 2015. If they were to go this route, the Blue Jackets wouldn't be the only team in the league to go sans captain. Both the Ottawa Senators and the aforementioned Rangers have went three seasons without an official cap'n, instead relying on a bevy of alternate captains to handle the duties.
#4: Zach Werenski
With Jones likely on his way out, Columbus may want to entice another young defenseman to stick around for the long-haul, and if he wants it, the captaincy may be in play for Zach Werenski. He'll be 24 when the season starts and would be a few weeks younger than Rick Nash was when he became the youngest captain in team history. The coming season will be the final year of a three-year, $15 million dollar deal Werenski signed prior to the 2019-20 season, and while he still be a restricted free agent at the end of next season (Jones will be unrestricted), being named captain could aid in making Werenski the cornerstone of the defense for many seasons to come. As one of the more popular Blue Jackets both on and off the ice, Werenski would have the potential to flourish in the captain role.
#3: Nick Foligno
There's more than a slight chance that the former captain is also the future captain. While rare for players moved at the deadline to return to the team that traded them, it has happened before and this could be the perfect set of circumstances for it to happen again. Foligno, who will be 34 in October, is the longest-tenured captain in team history. He is (likely) on the decline of the stat-producing portion of his career, but he's brought the Blue Jackets through adversity before, and there's little reason to believe that Foligno wouldn't still be a powerful voice in the locker room if a return does happen.
#2: Cam Atkinson
The longest-tenured Blue Jacket, Cam Atkinson was named an alternate captain for the first time during the 2018-19 season. One of the most visible faces for the franchise both on the ice, Atkinson also routinely makes his presence felt off the ice too, with a laundry list of charitable work in the community. Selected in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Draft, Atkinson has spent his entire ten-year career with the Blue Jackets and would be amongst the safest picks for the franchise to make for their on-ice leader.
#1: Boone Jenner
For each of the six seasons Foligno wore the "C", Boone Jenner was right there wearing the "A". Jenner was just 22 when he was named an alternate, a role that may have him primed and ready to become the 7th captain in Blue Jackets history. In his more than half-decade in the role, Jenner has missed just 27 games - more than half (15) of which came at the end of this season, when a broken finger sidelined him for the final month of the season.
Jenner sees a healthy amount of ice time, has a great reputation in the city and is amongst the Columbus faithful, and has been relied on in years past to handle captain duties when Foligno has been out of action. He’s not going to lead the team in points, but he could well be the right fit at the right time to be the on-ice leader for the Blue Jackets.