The Florida Panthers are becoming a destination that veterans choose to go to if they want to win, and Joe Thronton proved that by signing there this offseason.
“I see their team on paper, I watched their team last year, I love their team and that’s it,” Thornton said to the media after his signing. “I love what they’re building and excited to be part of it. But everything is about ultimately winning the Stanley Cup and the Panthers are right there, in my opinion.”
With a gaping hole on the left side of the defense and only $1.3 million in cap space, there may be another veteran who the Panthers can go after: Zdeno Chara.
Why The Move Makes Sense
Per Andy Strickland, the 42-year-old defenseman would prefer to stay in the Eastern Conference if he was to play in the 2021-22 season, as he wanted to stay near his family. While Florida is around 1,400 miles away from Boston, Chara will still be making trips to the area his family lives infrequently and he is giving himself a chance to win with the Panthers.
Like Thornton, Chara is in the twilight of his career and is looking for another ring before he retires. He proved that when he signed with the Washington Capitals last season after the Boston Bruins let him go in free agency.
The 6-foot-9 defenseman showed he still had some gas left in the tank at his age, playing 18:19 per night, including a team-leading 2:47 of shorthanded time on ice per game in his lone season with the Capitals. In 55 games in 2020-21, he added two goals and 10 points, flashing that 100 mph shot he carries.
With the Panthers having a lot of talented defensemen at the top half of their roster, including Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar, who each received Norris Trophy votes, he won’t be asked to be the seven-time All-Star and Norris Trophy-winning defenseman he was when he was playing in Boston.
He would instead fill a depth role, doing all of the things he’s still good at while not wearing himself out. Chara will also be able to rest if he isn’t able to play all 82 games, as they have young left-handed defensemen in Matt Kiersted and John Ludvig who can step up, as well as Markus Nutivaara who can step in and give the Panthers valuable minutes.
What To Expect Out Of Chara
At 42 years of age, Chara isn’t the same player as he was when he won the Norris Trophy in 2008-09, but he could still play a crucial role for the Panthers. Likely signing a one-year deal at a league-minimum $750,000, he could become a huge steal for Florida as they continue their hunt for their first Stanley Cup.
Chara can still play middle-pairing minutes and can play on the penalty kill, as his defensive instincts haven’t diminished. His huge wingspan and stick allow him to make plays on passes that no other defenseman in the league can make, and that is truly valuable. He also still has the same physicality he has always had, standing at 6-foot-9, 250 pounds. He makes punishing hits in the defensive zone and still shows flashes of offense with his booming slap shot.
If Chara were to come to Florida, he would likely play on the third pairing alongside Radko Gudas, making for a deadly physical duo who could lay the body on anyone. He could also play on that second penalty-kill unit, taking weight off of Ekblad and Weegar’s shoulders by using his massive frame to block shots.
Chara is in a position where he’s looking for one more chance to win a Stanley Cup, and the Panthers are the team that can do it for him.
Colby Guy is a writer for the Florida Panthers department here at THW. He’s a senior at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a football contributor, social media contributor and photographer for FAU Owls Nest.
Previously, Colby has written for FanSided as a New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators writer. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for FAU’s University Press. You can find him on Twitter at @ColbyDGuy.