While Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was putting together an article about Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara late last night, the big man was busy scoring two goals as the Bruins rolled the Arizona Coyotes 6-2. Friedman’s report and Chara’s game prove the same point: the 40-year-old is far from done.
Friedman reveals that Boston GM Don Sweeney has received trade inquires about Chara, and it is thought that some teams have been considering acquiring the Norris Trophy-winner since as far back as the 2017 Trade Deadline. However, with his play continuing to hold steady as he enters his 20th NHL season, Sweeney has had no interest in moving Chara. Instead, Friedman reports that the team would prefer to re-sign him and Chara has been candid that he would like to continue his career with Boston.
Part of the reason for the uptick in interest in Chara is also why the Bruins would like to keep him this year and re-sign him: they have already extended this contract once to cover the 2017-18 season, during which Chara will count for just $4MM against the cap. That is a far cry from the $7.5MM-$6.9MM that Chara has made each year since originally signing in Boston in 2006. For the first time in a few years, Chara is in fact an excellent value this season. If, going forward, Sweeney can keep his captain at that lower number, he could continue to be a bargain asset into his 40’s.
At 6’9″, 250-lbs, Chara may not have the longevity of a Jaromir Jagr. However, the role that he is being asked to play in Boston is one that he can maintain for at least a couple more years. Chara has lost a step in his skating no question and he could benefit from playing fewer minutes, as he has tended to tail off in individual games and toward the end of the season. Yet, Chara is still one of the best checkers in the game – maybe one of the best all-time – and his shot has hardly lost its record-setting power, as evidenced last night. However, the most important role that the Slovakian superstar plays for a Bruins team getting younger with each year is captain. The Bruins are loaded with leadership and experience, as Patrice Bergeron and David Backes would be the captains of nearly any other team in the league, but Chara’s mentoring on the blue line is invaluable. Brandon Carlo, Chara’s defensive partner for the last year plus, is developing into a top-notch shutdown defender in his own right and with Charlie McAvoy now in town and the likes of Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen and (especially) Ryan Lindgren on their way, the Bruins have one of the best teachers possible to help develop a new generation of defenseman, while still playing a meaningful role.
Since signing with Boston in 2006, among all defenseman Chara is seventh in scoring, seventh in hits, fifth in time on ice, second only to Shea Weber in power play goals, and second only to Duncan Keith in +/-. Not only has he been great, but the future Hall of Famer has become one of the most recognizable names in hockey. Luckily for fans, not just in Boston but across the planet, it doesn’t seem as if we’re seeing the last of Chara. The big man still has gas left in the tank.