Midway through last season Jason Chimera said he had two goals in hockey. One was to win a Stanley Cup. The other was to reach 1,000 games.
He wanted to do both with the Washington Capitals.
Instead, the rambunctious, heart-on-his-sleeve 37-year-old left wing will continue chasing those goals with the New York Islanders, who signed him Friday to a two-year, $4.5 million trade.
Asked in a conference call what he’ll remember most about his seven seasons in Washington, Chimera didn’t mention scoring a goal off his helmet or assisting on Alex Ovechkin’s 500th goal or scoring his final goal in a Capitals jersey on a 105-foot flip-in on Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason.
“The people,” Chimera said. “Good people, good fans. I lived in Old Towne Alexandria and it’s probably the best place I’ve ever lived. I met a lot of good friends, a lot of good people, a lot of good times, a lot of good hockey. I’m not bitter about leaving at all. Some things gotta come to an end once in a while. It’s a great place to play, great fans, great people. I have nothing bad to say about Washington, that’s for sure.”
In 490 games with the Capitals, Chimera netted 82 goals, 115 assists and 350 penalty minutes with the Capitals and was one of the team’s most boisterous players.
In fact, on the team’s breakup day following their playoff loss to the Penguins, several teammates campaigned to bring Chimera back.
But with Marcus Johansson and Dmitry Orlov still unsigned and the Capitals entering Friday with roughly $9 million in cap space following Thursday’s signing of Tom Wilson, Chimera knew he would not be returning to D.C., especially since he never had contract talks with the Caps.
“You see the writing on the wall sometimes and then they made the trade for Lars Eller at the draft,” Chimera said. “You always get frustrated because we had a Presidents’ Trophy-winning season and you want to win. We just can’t seem to get over that second-round hump. It seems like a mountain to climb. And then you start thinking about your future and the Islanders were one of the first teams to reach out.”
Chimera, who has played in 951 NHL games, said his agent, Allan Walsh, heard from the Islanders early in the free agent process and he spoke with Islanders assistant general manager Doug Weight, who was a teammate of his in Edmonton when his NHL career first started. Chimera quickly scanned the Islanders roster, which also added Andrew Ladd on Friday, and agreed to a two-year deal.
“They’ve got probably one of the best leaders in the game in Johnny Tavares,” Chimera said. “You see the way they play night in and night out. They were one of the teams that showed interest right away. I just like the makeup of their team. They’re knocking on the door every year and hopefully I can get them over that hump. I’m a guy that wants to win the Stanley Cup pretty badly. It was a no brainer going there, for sure.”
Beginning with two preseason games and the Caps’ home opener on Oct. 15, the Caps and Islanders will face each other seven times next season. If he plays in his first 48 games with the Islanders, his 999th NHL game will come against the Capitals on Jan. 31. He said he’s looking forward to renewing a rivalry that was rekindled in the playoffs last year.
“That playoff series we had with them (Nassau Coliseum) was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard a building,” Chimera said. “Instead of people yelling at me, hopefully they’ll be on my side for a change.”
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