NBCSports Boston – In a stunner on Wednesday afternoon, Zdeno Chara signed a one-year, $795,000 deal with the Washington Capitals. “We are extremely pleased to have Zdeno join the Capitals organization,” said Capitals GM Brian MacLellan. “We feel his experience and leadership will strengthen our blueline and our team.”
Originally reported by Ken Campbell, Chara confirmed the move with a tribute video to Boston fans on his Instagram page.
“My family and I have been so fortunate to call the great city of Boston our home for over 14 years,” his caption reads. “Recently, the Boston Bruins have informed me that they plan to move forward with their many younger and talented players and I respect their decision. Unfortunately, my time as the proud captain of the Bruins has come to an end.”
Zdeno Chara is carved into the Mount Rushmore of Boston Athletes in the 21st Century right alongside Tom Brady, David Ortiz, and Paul Pierce. Chara will be forever beloved by Bruins fans because he chose to come here when he was at the top of his game and the B’s were coming off a last place finish. I still vividly remember sitting in my buddy’s living room that July day in 2006 when Chara (and Marc Savard) signed a massive 5-year contract to come to Boston, which was something the Bruins never did when I was younger. So it was monumental for a guy like Chara to even sign with the team, let alone become a franchise legend, a 14-year-captain, and of course bring the Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 30+ seasons. Not to mention anchoring the defense to two more Stanley Cup Finals appearances.
Chara was an elite defenseman, played the powerplay and the penalty kill, was a captain for over a decade, had the most terrifying slap shot in the league, and he was a physical force. Hell the Canadiens legitimately tried to have him arrested up in Canada for nearly decapitating Max Pacioretty back in 2011. He was also the most intimidating enforcer in the NHL well into his forties with 30 fights in his Bruins career alone.
Chara will be remembered for a lot of things, primarily this iconic photo with the Cup.
He’ll be remembered for his dominance on the ice as one of the best defensemen in the NHL (3x First Team All-Star, 4x Second Team) and then while in Boston becoming the best in the league when he won the Norris Trophy in 2009. Chara will always be the center of some hardcore Boston sports bar trivia too as the owner of the hardest shot in the entire league at 108.8 mph.
Aside from all of the personal accolades and team success though, it was the absolute grit and determination of Big Z that made him a fan favorite. He was always the hardest working guy wearing the spoked B and was routinely setting the bar during the Bruins annual conditioning tests even as he was the oldest player on the team.
The one sight I’ll never forget and one that will be played in his Hall of Fame reel is the ovation Zdeno Chara, with his jaw wired shut, received before Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, less than two days after breaking his jaw. Chara took a puck to the face in Game 4 and needed surgery to insert metal plates into his jaw and he didn’t even miss a game.
It seemed like the writing was on the wall for Chara this offseason unfortunately, as the Bruins appeared ready to move on after his playing time had started to dwindle. With a bunch of young defensemen the Bruins want to develop or at least evaluate at the NHL level, the team was likely less concerned about the money they’d have to pay Chara and more concerned with kickstarting a youth movement. The Bruins may have also wanted to avoid the optics of having their captain playing 3rd or 4th line minutes assuming Don Sweeney and Cam Neeley didn’t want to stick Chara out there as a Top-4 defenseman at this point in his career.
This is the worst part of getting older as a sports fan; watching your idols get older with you. They get older, sometimes they break down physically, sometimes they move on to other teams, and eventually they all retire. I’m over 30 so Chara has been a pillar of the Bruins for nearly half of my life, which is insane to type. He may not have won as many championships as Tom Brady or Big Papi, but he was just as monumental in changing the culture of an entire franchise and putting yet another Boston team on the map after years of mediocrity.
For that Big Z will always be remembered as a Bruins legend.