Just as the rest of the hockey world is, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is waiting to see what the NHL and NHLPA can hammer out for another return to play for the 2021 NHL season.
Numerous sources had checked in with Boston Hockey Now this past week saying that it appeared the Bruins and the future hall of famer were ‘far apart’ on a potential new contract and that Chara has had more than just feelers with ‘more than three teams’. When reached by email on Friday, Chara’s agent Matt Keator had this to say when asked about the rumors:
“Waiting On Format For New Season. No rush.”
Zdeno Chara, 43, is an unrestricted free agent for the first time since July 1, 2006, when the Bruins signed him to a five-year, $37.5 million contract. That was the same day they locked up one of the other big fish on the 2006 UFA market, locking up center Marc Savard at four years, $20 million. Chara and Savard helped bring the Bruins back in Boston and helped the Original 6 franchise become a perennial Stanley Cup contender for the first time since the early nineties. They would eventually win the Stanley Cup in 2010-11. Chara has since gone on to help lead the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and then the St. Louis Blues in 2019.
That body of work Chara has constructed since coming to Boston 14 years ago, has left many in and around the league stunned that he and the Bruins have not yet put pen to paper on a new contract. As reported here earlier this month, there was increasing chatter that the Tampa Bay Lightning had or would be reaching out to Keator about Chara’s services. Since then, multiple sources have also told BHN to watch the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs when things open up and teams start signing and trading players again.
As Keator indicated, that moment will more than likely come when the expanded NHL Return To Play Committee get together and formulate a plan for the 2021 season. Later on Friday, an NHL management source said he doesn’t see that happening as fast as many are reporting it could.
“January 1 doesn’t seem too realistic right now does it?” he asked rhetorically.
Chara’s stats – five goals and six assists in 65 games this past season – have declined in recent years but many would agree that he is still one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league. For an aging NHL team, like the Bruins, that still consider themselves a Stanley Cup contender, there’s doubt Zdeno Chara is still a valuable piece that’s needed for a Stanley Cup run but at what price and how many years?
The answer to that question will depend on when the NHL and NHLPA decide they have a good shot at dropping the puck on the 2021 regular season.