The Boston Bruins entered NHL free agency with four of their own defensemen hitting the market, and the one player still without a contract is captain Zdeno Chara.
The B's re-signed Kevan Miller to a one-year deal early in free agency. Shortly after, Torey Krug left the team to sign a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with the St. Louis Blues. Matt Grzelcyk re-signed with Boston over the weekend on a four-year deal worth just under $3.7 million per season.
Chara has played 22 seasons in the NHL and the last 14 as captain of the Bruins. He's not the same elite player and perennial Norris Trophy contender we saw for many years, but the 43-year-old defenseman still could play an effective third pairing/penalty kill role on this Bruins blue line.
Grzelcyk is confident Chara can still make a meaningful impact on and off the ice.
"Not really sure how it’s going to shake out but certainly hope that – would love to have Zdeno back," Grzelcyk said Monday in a video conference call. "He’s an unbelievable teammate, he’s an unbelievable person. I feel like he still has got a lot of game left and has a lot of hunger to keep playing and keep pushing.
"It’s awesome to see first-hand his ability to lead and the example that he sets forth for the entire team. Not sure how it’s going to work out but like I said, I think it’s more about wanting to come in, in as good of shape as possible and take advantage of any opportunity that comes my way."
Chara's agent recently told TSN's Pierre LeBrun that his client is "looking at all options" in free agency. LeBrun reported on the first day of free agency that "numerous teams" had reached out to Chara's camp.
The Bruins have yet to replace Krug's with another top-four defenseman, and even though they re-signed Miller, it would be unfair to expect a ton from him next season after he hasn't played since April of 2019 due to knee injuries. Grzelcyk has carved out a nice role for himself in recent seasons and should take a step forward, particularly offensively, in Krug's absence. But he's not a legitimate top-four defenseman at this stage of his career.
Losing both Krug and Chara in the same offseason would be a sizeable blow to the Bruins blue line. The B's should do everything they can to bring back their captain on another one-year contract.