The Ottawa Senators have announced centre Jason Spezza as their new captain and veterans Chris Neil and Chris Phillips as the alternate captains.
The Senators were forced to choose a new captain after the departure of Daniel Alfredsson this summer.
Spezza, the second overall pick in 2001, was the NHL's fourth-leading scorer two seasons ago before missing most of last year due to back surgery. He has two years left on his contract that will pay him $7 million per season.
At the official announcement Saturday, Spezza said Ottawa has become his second home and it's given him a chance to mature in his career.
'I've always dreamed of being a captain'
Spezza also said he dreamed of being a captain of an NHL team while watching players such as Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman. He also said he learned a lot from his former linemate, Alfredsson.
"I saw the way he practised, the way he carried himself in the community. It gave me time to grow as a player and a person. To have that time to grow, I was fortunate," Spezza said.
Senators' head coach Paul MacLean said Spezza's offence and longevity with the team, plus the fact he is a "family man" made him suited to be the captain.
Senators' GM Bryan Murray echoed that sentiment, adding the obstacles Spezza faced as a young player helped make him a better leader.
"You watch Jason around the team, around the whole group, talking to him as an individual," said Murray. "He has a big impact on people like Zack Smith and Kyle Turris … time has helped Jason."
Young team means older leaders
Murray went on to talk about how young his team is this year and there was a need for an older leadership group, including Spezza, Neil, Phillips, as well as defenceman Marc Methot and goalie Craig Anderson.
Phillips is entering his 16th season with the Senators, the team that drafted him first overall in 1996. However, he is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Neil, meanwhile, was drafted in the sixth round in 1998 by Ottawa. The 34-year-old is in his 12th season with the Senators and he is signed for three more seasons.
Spezza will likely wear the “C” for the first time on Sunday when the Senators visit the Winnipeg Jets for their first exhibition game. That is part of a short road trip that sees them head to Saskatoon to play the Calgary Flames on Monday.