( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards

After a less than exciting offseason that saw the Boston Bruins retain most of their team from last season, one significant player whose fate is yet to be determined. The 43-year-old captain Zdeno Chara, who is an unrestricted free agent, is still unsigned as we enter the month of November with a potential NHL season start date around January 1, 2021. This development has some Bruins fans wondering why the team is waiting. But, it may be that Chara is the one waiting.

The National Hockey League spent the last three months of their season playing games in two bubble cities, Toronto and Edmonton. This scenario created a very different atmosphere from typical seasons as no fans were in attendance; the teams were not allowed to leave their bubble, and family and friends were not allowed to visit. Many players talked about how this past postseason took an emotional toll on them and that being away from home was a difficult challenge.

This feeling was no different for members of the Bruins. Goaltender Tuukka Rask left the bubble during the second round of the playoffs due to family concerns. Rask had mentioned before leaving that the playoffs’ it felt different because of the lack of fans. The Finnish netminder drew some criticism for his comments and departure, but I am sure that he was not the only one with these thoughts. Now, the league faces more bubble situations, which leaves the NHL players in another predicament.

This brings us to Zdeno Chara and his status for next season. It would be hard to envision Chara playing his last year or two with another National Hockey League team. Since joining the Bruins in 2006, the 6’9″ defenseman has been a leader of one of the league’s top teams. Even though he has lost a step or two, Chara is still valuable on the penalty kill and in the locker room. He has also been instrumental in the development of young defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. By all accounts, the organization would like to have him back as well. On the surface, it may seem like the team is waiting on the possible re-signing of winger Jake DeBrusk or a last-minute potential signing of a veteran d-man like Karl Alzner. However, it is more likely that Chara is the one holding off on a decision.

Zdeno Chara has earned the right to wait until he is absolutely sure about playing next season. Being a 43-year-old in a bubble with teammates who are mostly more than fifteen years older than him is not as glamorous as it may seem. Chara is also facing the idea of spending even more time away from his family and other activities in which he loves to be involved. The former Norris Trophy winner’s hesitation might have to do with some of these factors. And what about waiting until a mid-season return? In this situation, Chara could be more rested and ready for another long Stanley Cup run. Whatever the scenario, Bruins fans can rest assured that this decision is Zdeno Chara’s and his alone.