By: Bob Ferns | Follow Me On Twitter @bob_ferns
Zdeno Chara is not considering retirement.
“I feel strong physically. I’m positive, and I believe I can still play this game and contribute to the team. I want to stay in Boston. I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences with the younger players. That hasn’t changed. I’m committed. We’ll see what’s going to happen next.”
Chara has been a tremendous captain for 14 years in the spoked B. During that time, the Bruins have had a run of success that hasn’t been seen in Boston since the heyday of the 70’s Big Bad Bruins. Still, as they say, time is undefeated, and all athletes eventually have to face their own decline as they age.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
At 44, big Z is not the seven-time all-star and Norris trophy winning player anymore. There is no doubt that his play has issues that are hard to ignore. Coming back from the layoff, Chara’s age showed in the playoff bubble. Z was a shell of the dominant force he once was. Still, the Bruins Captain has the ability to be an effective shutdown penalty-killing Defenseman. He did block 21 shots in the playoffs, and his leadership is unquestioned.
The question for Bruins GM Don Sweeney is at what price and what cost does re-signing Chara make sense? Sweeney addressed the Chara situation at his end of the year presser. “I respect Zdeno’s comments, he always been an iconic player for us, an important player for us, and we’re going to explore opportunities with he and other players that have either UFA or RFA status and hopefully check off the boxes like we have with several other players and continue to move forward and improve our hockey club and addressing Zdeno’s contractual situation is part of that process.”
Well those comments were certainly no guarantee of a contract for Z.
“I believe I can still play this game and contribute to the team and I want to stay in Boston. I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences…that hasn’t changed. I’m committed. We’ll see what’s gonna happen next.” – Zdeno Chara pic.twitter.com/VZOIOx60Cn— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 3, 2020
The price: Chara played last year on a team-friendly $2 million contract that made him an excellent bargain. The thinking here is that he would accept the same deal (or perhaps less with bonus incentives) for one last run at another cup.
The cost: While we’ve established the dollar figure to re-up the captain, what is the actual price for the Bruins? An argument can be made that it’s time for the Bruins to open opportunities to younger defensemen in the organization. The LHD depth will take a hit with Torey Krug almost certainly lost to free agency. Bruins will also need to spend to keep RFA Matt Grzelcyk on their blue line, perhaps paired with Charlie McAvoy.
The replacement prospects:
Jeremy Lauzon is a physical 6’1” 205-pound left handed defenseman and 23-year-old who was so impressive during his limited time during the regular season he earned a two-year extension. Lauzon struggled in the playoff bubble and was eventually replaced by Connor Clifton and even John Moore. Still, the ceiling on Lauzon is high, and he should be a lock to make the top 6 next year.
Left-handed defenseman Uhro Vaakanainen is a 21-year-old first rd pick (18th overall) in 2017 and has been rising up the ranks within the B’s organization. A small step back last year, but if not for the current depth of the Bruins, may have already become a regular NHL contributor.
And then there’s Jakob Zboril, another left-handed defenseman. The 23-year-old Zboril was a controversial pick, as were the other two first-rounders for the Bruins (Zach Senysyhn and Jake DeBrusk) when he was taken 13th overall in the 2015 draft. His development has been just as controversial as both Lauzon and Vaakanian have surpassed him as prospects.
The Bruins may decide to move on from Zdeno, but given the history and willingness by Z to stay, the prediction is Chara resigning for a one-year $1.5 million contract with incentives.
Grzelcyk has re-upped on a two-year deal. Vaakanainen and Lauzon both make the club as 6/7 defensemen. Zboril is a tendered RFA and continues to season in Providence but will need a new contract if Boston wants to keep him in the fold. Also, important to know that when Zboril returns to North America after being loaned to an organization overseas, he’ll need to be placed on waivers for the purpose of AHL Providence placement.
One more run at a cup for Big Z with Bruins.