The waiting game continues to see what happens with Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins.
The 43-year-old captain finds himself in unrestricted free agency for the first time in his Black and Gold career and still remains unsigned more than a week into free agency while the Bruins wrapped up work this weekend on a four-year, $14.75 million contract with Matt Grzelcyk.
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney gave an update, of sorts, on talks with the 6-foot-9 captain and essentially said that the Bruins are waiting to get word from Chara about his plans for the upcoming season. It’s clearly a moving target given that nobody knows when the 2020-21 NHL regular season will begin or what it’s going to look like.
Clearly the Bruins are respecting Chara’s wishes to wait it out for some certainty before making a final decision.
“We have communicated consistently with Zdeno and [his agent] Matt Keator,” said Sweeney. “We’re just waiting for him to initiate what he’d like to do moving forward. I feel very comfortable allowing [the decision-making process] to take the necessary time and let Zdeno make his own decisions along that route.”
Chara just finished up his 14th season with the Bruins and posted the exact same five goals and 14 points that he ended up with two seasons ago, and averaged a little north of 21 minutes per game while still playing a top-4 role. Chara finished with two points and a minus-4 rating in 13 playoff games in the Toronto bubble and averaged under 20 minutes of ice time amid murmurs of retirement when things ended abruptly for the B’s against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Chara made it clear in his exit interview with the media that he’d like to keep playing for the Bruins, but his agent told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun a few days ago that they “are looking at all options.”
“It is a possibility,” LeBrun replied when asked by Duthie during a TSN Insiders segment if there is a chance ‘we see Zdeno Chara in a different sweater’?
“I mean, I asked his agent Matt Keator on Thursday for an update and specifically asked ‘Hey, like I’m hearing that you know, it may not necessarily be Boston as a slam dunk if he decides to play another season.’ And Keator’s answer was ‘looking at all options’. Now, I have to say that the Bruins are probably the front-runner, but other teams keep calling. The key thing that Keator said is that Zdeno Chara is in no hurry, he wants to take his time. And one thing he mentioned is the format for next season is of particular interest to Chara. He’s got a young family, there’s a lot of factors to consider whether he is jumping back in for another season, depending on how next year looks like. The bottom line is right now Big Zee is in a holding pattern.”
What’s fairly interesting is whether or not anything else is holding back Chara from committing already to the B’s for next season.
The Boston Bruins haven’t made any secret that Chara could only return in a reduced role where he would probably 15-17 minutes a night as a bottom-pairing defenseman, and would be utilized to kill penalties and to protect one-goal leads in the third periods of games. It could even mean that Chara would be a healthy scratch from time-to-time against faster, skilled hockey teams given the youth and depth Boston expects to have on the back end next season.
There may be other NHL teams willing and able to offer him a bigger role, or perhaps even a greater chance at one last Stanley Cup before he decides to end his surefire Hall of Fame career.
It remains to be seen if any of this is also at play with the Bruins captain, but anything is possible as long as Chara remains an unrestricted free agent able to sign with anybody else across the NHL right now.