It's hard to imagine Zdeno Chara not finishing his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Bruins. And yet, one week into NHL free agency, Boston's captain remains unsigned.
The Bruins have not had a good offseason. They lost top-four defenseman Torey Krug to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and haven't signed any of their own free agents except defenseman Kevan Miller, who hasn't played since April of 2019 due to knee injuries.
What's going on with Chara?
TSN's Pierre LeBrun provided an update on the 43-year-old defenseman's situation during Thursday's edition of "Insider Trading". Here's what LeBrun said when asked of it's possible Chara plays for a different team next season:
"It is a possibility," LeBrun explained. "I asked his agent, Matt Keator, on Thursday for an update and specifically asked, ‘Hey, I’m hearing that it may not necessarily be Boston as a slam dunk if he decides to play another season.' And Keator’s answer was ‘looking at all options.’
"Now, I have to say the Bruins are probably the frontrunner, but other teams keep calling. The key thing that Keator says is that Zdeno Chara is in no hurry. He wants to take his time. And one thing he mentioned is the format for next season is of particular interest to Chara. He’s got a young family, there’s a lot of factors to consider, whether he’s jumping back in for another season, depending on how next year looks like. Bottom line is right now, Big Zee is in a holding pattern."
Chara told reporters shortly after the team's 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff exit to the Tampa Bay Lightning that he wants to remain a Bruins player.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney last commented on Chara six days ago after the team signed free agent right winger Craig Smith.
"There’s communication between the two sides and again I’ve had a great deal of communication with Zdeno and his representative Matt Keator, to make sure there is no ambiguity in terms of that," Sweeney said in a video press conference.
"And whatever Zee decides to do, ultimately, he’ll tell us. We’ll react accordingly to that. We have our own feelings as to where these things will go. We’ve certainly relayed them. We’ll continue to relay them.
Chara absolutely can still be an effective NHL player. Of course, he's no longer an elite player and a first pairing role isn't ideal for him at this stage of his career. But a third pairing role with penalty killing minutes, in addition to the excellent leadership he provides on and off the ice, certainly would benefit the Bruins.
The B's captain played on a one-year contract worth $2 million last season. Bringing him back on a similar deal would be totally fine and strengthen a blue line that currently looks pretty weak with Chara and restricted free agent Matt Grzelcyk unsigned and Krug gone.