There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the future of Boston Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara. At 43 years old and in his 22nd season in the NHL, it’s fair to question just how much he has left to give and when he’s going to call it a career.
If you ask the veteran blueliner, however, retirement isn’t on his mind yet despite his age.
“Definitely not getting ahead of myself. I’m still in the present and I still believe that we’re going to play some sort of hockey this season,” Chara told Sportsnet’s “After Hours” on Sunday. “That’s where I’m at. I’m not getting too ahead of myself. Obviously, I still love the game, I still love going out there and compete, and if everything is right, I still want to play.”
It’s admirable for Chara to still have the drive and motivation to play but it’s even more impressive that he has the ability to still perform at such a high level.
If Chara wants to keep playing, there’s almost certainly still going to be a place for him on the team given everything he’s given to the Bruins throughout his 14-year tenure with the team. The only reason there has to be a qualifier of “almost” is because anything can happen in sports as we’ve seen time and time again.
There was already the assumption that Chara was still interested in playing as suggested by Bruins’ general manager Sweeney himself.
Related: 7 Things About Zdeno Chara
“I think even Zdeno himself has reported that he would like to continue to play,” said Sweeney on April 10. “The really unique relationship that we have as an organization with Zdeno, and this started a bunch of years ago, but the last three or four in particular, he has exercised the ability to show patience, allow us to plan accordingly and then adjust his own contractual situations. You saw him do two consecutive one-year deals, which was important for us in planning.”
At this point, one-year deals make the most sense for the Bruins and for Chara. These deals give the Bruins long-term flexibility and allow for Chara to consider all of his options at the end of each season.
Bruins Rely on Chara as Shutdown Option
The Bruins may have a plethora of left-shot defenders on the team and in their system who can contribute at an NHL level, but none of them have the same experience or defensive prowess as Chara.
Players like Matt Grzelcyk, Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore, Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril are all options for the team next season with the Torey Krug’s future with the team also very much in the air. Even if the Bruins are able to secure Krug for the long-term, however, they would still be missing a top-tier shutdown.
In Chara, the Bruins have that type of insurance despite the fact that he may not be capable of the same feats he once was. His speed may be an issue at times and the wear-and-tear on his body isn’t going away any time soon, but there’ are few players in history who can still play at this level despite being not only on the wrong side of 30, but the wrong-side of 40 as a defender.
The Bruins are working from a position of strength as far as their left-shot defense is concerned and it’s something they should use to their advantage in the near future. Holding onto prospects for too long doesn’t help anybody, especially if their perceived value falls off as a result.
While some players – Lauzon being the obvious and most recent example, have found their way into regular ice time, it would be impossible for the Bruins to play everybody at once.
This is where difficult decision making comes into play. Sweeney has to decide who is worth keeping and who is worth moving on from both in terms of current roster players whose role could be filled by prospects, or the prospects themselves who could be packaged for other assets.
While Chara won’t be on the team forever, there’s a very good chance he’ll return for the 2020-21 season based on the captain’s recent comments. Beyond that, though, the Bruins are going to have to figure out what they’ll be doing for the long-term.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.