The Washington Capitals have signed defenceman Zdeno Chara to a one-year contract, the team reported Wednesday.
“We are extremely pleased to have Zdeno join the Capitals organization,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a team statement. “We feel his experience and leadership will strengthen our blueline and our team.”
The deal is the latest in what’s sure to be a different season in the NHL, but it’s still wild to imagine Chara not suiting up for the Boston Bruins this year. He’s been a Bruin since 2006 after the Ottawa Senators let him go as a free agent in favour of Wade Redden, a decision that now looks more than a little iffy in hindsight.
Chara was the captain of the Bruins for 1,173 regular season and playoff games in Boston, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and making two more trips to the Final. He skated with a broken jaw. And so on.
The 14-season legend of Chara in Boston isn’t going anywhere, even as the man himself does. At 43 years of age, he has more to offer. You can bet on that, just as the Capitals are.
Boston’s decision is a business decision, as the franchise hopes to focus on younger players. Not for nothing, but Chara will play on a divisional rival. And in these strange times, that means Chara and the Caps will meet the younger, fleeter Bruins in no less than eight contests this truncated and rearranged season.
Chara went unsigned deep into December and it’s been reported that about half the teams in the league came calling for his services, with Washington winning the draw at $795,000 for the season. There are bonuses attached, including $230,000 if plays 10 games, $250,000 if the Capitals make the playoffs, and $250,000 if they win the Cup.
So in a year that will find Joe Thornton in a Maple Leafs sweater, Alex Pietrangelo as a Golden Knight, and Henrik Lundqvist missing out on the season he was supposed to be a Capital, it kind of all makes sense to see Chara laying one on for Washington. Go figure.