Is anyone sure what's happening with Zdeno Chara?
It feels like this entire buyer's market of an offseason has been screaming "SHOOT!" at the Bruins, yet nothing's really happened that's made the team better.
The Craig Smith signing was a step towards addressing a major issue at wing, but it didn't solve the problem. Meanwhile, the defense has unequivocally taken a step backward with the loss of Torey Krug.
The Bruins didn't pounce on Nate Schmidt or Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the trade market and watched Erik Gustafsson sign a one-year deal with the Flyers for just $3 million. Retaining restricted free agent Matt Grzelcyk means at least one regular on the left side of Boston's defense will be back, but what about the other guy?
Given that Chara was adamant after the season that he wanted to return to the Bruins and Don Sweeney wasn't as firm, it seemed this was going to be the Bruins' call. When the B's signed Kevan Miller at the start of free agency while Chara became unrestricted, it was a major head-scratcher. Meanwhile, Chara's reportedly been receiving interest from other teams.
There are some answers lacking here -- such as whether the Bruins have an offer out to Chara -- but Sweeney made it sound over the weekend like the ball is in Chara's court.
"We’ve... communicated consistently with Zdeno and [agent] Matt Keator,” Sweeney said after the Grzelcyk deal. “We’re just waiting for him to initiate what he’d like to do moving forward. I feel very comfortable allowing that to take the necessary time and let Zdeno his own make the decisions along that route.”
Even if Chara returns, perhaps the Bruins will try Grzelcyk in Chara's usual spot on the top pair with Charlie McAvoy. Chara could play second-pair minutes with Brandon Carlo or anchor the third pair while someone like Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon or Urho Vaakanainen gets a shot in the top four. We all continue to ignore John Moore's existence, but Moore could certainly factor into Boston's back end in the coming season.
Boston has $6.6 million in cap space. If they re-sign Jake DeBrusk and keep Chara at something like the $2 million plus incentives he got last year, maybe a little shedding might be needed money-wise. They could do that by giving Nick Ritchie away and replacing him on the roster with Greg McKegg.
Losing Chara now wouldn't have the consequences it would have, say, five years ago, but the Bruins would be better with Chara than without him. Is he the player he used to be? No, because he's not currently the best defenseman in the league, which is what he was for a long time. For a blue line that's in flux after Krug's departure, he'd still be a valuable piece.
Ditching your captain when he doesn't cost much just because he's regressed is silly. Hopefully that's not what the Bruins are doing.