The update from the Boston Bruins when it comes to 43-year-old captain Zdeno Chara is that there isn’t much of an update.
Don Sweeney confirmed it’s “status quo” when it comes to the unsigned Chara when he spoke with reporters on Monday after signing restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year bridge deal for $7.35 million. Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, told Boston Hockey Now a couple of weeks ago that the Bruins captain was simply “waiting on a format” for the 2020-21 NHL season before enacting a decision on this upcoming season. Sweeney echoed that sentiment while giving a brief update on where the B’s stand with Chara’s camp.
“Same status quo there. [We are] waiting to reconnect with [Chara’s agent Matt Keator] and Zdeno. Zee continues to evaluate what the landscape of the league looks like and we’ll see where it goes,” said Sweeney. “We’ve had constant communication and hopefully we’ve got a target date here at some point in the near future and we’ll see what the league determines.”
The expectation is that any bubble scenario that might take him away from his young family for long periods of time could push the 6-foot-9 defenseman toward sitting out the season, and something closer to a normal regular season work/home scenario would allow him to play his 15th season in Boston. Common sense says that Chara would have signed elsewhere by now if that was in the cards for him, but it’s all essentially theoretical while the shutdown defenseman is sitting out there in free agency.
Since the NHL and NHLPA haven’t figured out a format or even a start date as of yet, Chara has been content to wait until things are hammered out.
The good news about the B’s cap situation is that they still have north of $3.5 million in cap space after signing DeBrusk to a pretty reasonable $3.675 million cap hit for the next couple of seasons. So, there’s room to fit Chara in under the cap if both sides come to an agreement ahead of a prospective 2020-21 season.
Here’s a breakdown from our friends at Puck Pedia:
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) November 23, 2020
Chara had five goals and 14 points in 68 games for the B’s last season while averaging a career-low 21:01 of ice time, but was still an excellent plus-26 while playing in a top pairing role with Charlie McAvoy much of last season.
Something else at play with Chara is a changing role for the Black and Gold. The expectation is that Chara would have a reduced role with the Boston Bruins next season with reduced ice time befitting a third pairing role, and a focus toward killing penalties and protecting tight leads late in games with his shutdown work in the defensive zone. That’s a big transition for a future Hall of Famer that’s been a top-4 defenseman since entering the league and could be part of the hold-up in signing with the Bruins as well.