October 10: Per CapFriendly, Chara’s one-year deal carries the league-minimum cap hit of $750,000. The deal contains an additional $750,000 in performance bonuses.
September 18: A future Hall of Famer is heading back to where it all began. As first reported by ESPN’s Kevin Weekes and then confirmed by the team, the New York Islanders have signed veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year contract. Financial terms have not been disclosed.
Chara was of course drafted by the Islanders all the way back in 1996. He played his first four pro seasons with the club before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators in 2001 in the infamous Alexei Yashin trade. Since then, Chara has established himself as one of the best defensemen of his generation. A Stanley Cup champion, Norris Trophy winner, seven-time all-league defenseman, the NHL’s active leader in career plus/minus and penalty minutes, and an all-time captain, Chara has accomplished more than anyone could have expected when he last with the Islanders. However, he still wants to add another title to his trophy shelf and feels a return to New York could be the best fit.
The long-time Bruins captain, Chara left Boston after the 2019-20 season as the team was looking to move on with a younger core of defensemen and only offered Chara a depth role. The Washington Capitals took him on as an affordable, one-year rental and he provided solid stay-at-home defense all year. Yes, it was a career-low in ice time and a drop-off in most statistical categories, but at 44 years old that is to be expected. The skating and skill are largely gone from his game, but Chara was still a plus player who contributed physically and was not a liability on the back end. Having see up-close what Chara can do, the Islanders have signed him away from the division rival Capitals and will likely use him in a similar fashion. However, given their far more conservative system than Washington’s and the presence of several other dependable defensive blue liners such as Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, and fellow veteran Andy Greene, Chara will be under less pressure. This could serve to keep him well-rested and even more effective defensively late in the season and into the playoffs of his 24th NHL campaign.
Chara wanted to stay on the east coast near his family in Boston while still landing with a team that could give him one last shot at the Stanley Cup. It is safe to say that the reigning “East Division” champs have as good a shot as anyone who fits that description. Add in a homecoming to the team who started his illustrious career and the pairing of the Chara and the Islanders seems to be an excellent fit.