Last Friday, Jason Chimera was one of the most coveted players on the free agent market, receiving interest from reportedly 17 different teams. At age 37, Chimera was coming off his best season as a pro. Riding a 12.1% shooting percentage, the Ice Cheetah tallied 20 goals and 20 assists while playing in all 82 regular season games. It’s a success story no one would have predicted after Chimera’s struggles — some of which seemed driven by a philosophy clash with Barry Trotz — during the 2014-15 season.
Riding his big year into the sunset, Chimera got a $250k raise from the New York Islanders, signing a two-year, $4.5 million contract on July 1. It ended Chimera’s seven-year tenure in Washington.
With the help of Sean Morrow, we say goodbye to the Ice Cheetah.
Video by Sean Morrow
There are so many things we’ll never forget about Chimmer: his interviews that sounded like he had marbles in his mouth, that time he broke his nose, his friendship with Joel Ward, his adorable son Cale, his charity work with Flashes Of Hope, and his joker status in the locker room. But it was Chimera’s clutch playoff goals against the New York Rangers that will be his long-lasting legacy as a Capital.
Chimera scored 7 goals in four playoff series against the Rangers, owning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who may very well be a Hall of Famer someday. On April 20, 2011, Chimera ended Game Four with an improbable, double overtime goal. Using his speed and tenacity, Chimera created chaos in front of the Rangers net, eventually knocking a loose puck past the King. To celebrate, Chimmer pumped his fist all the way to the red line. For whatever reason, Jason Chimera was as lethal against the Rangers as Alex Ovechkin was against every NHL team.
Acquired by George McPhee during a mid-season deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chimera scored 20 goals for the first time in his career during the 2011-12 season, later forming a close bond with “twin” Joel Ward. From the third line, the checking-line forwards combined to score 39 goals in 2013-14. The 24 that Ward tallied that season remains a career high.
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) February 28, 2014
In 2014-15, Chimera, under new Caps leadership, had arguably his worst season as a pro.
“Me and him disagreed on a lot of things this year,” Trotz said on Breakdown Day that year. “And I wouldn’t give in and he wouldn’t give in in some ways, and I think we have a lot of respect for each other, and I thought at the end of the year he had grown a lot.”
In December 2014, the low-point of Chimera’s Capitals career occurred when Trotz benched him. It was the first time since April 2013 that Chimmer had been a healthy scratch. In fact, Chimera sat four different times that season, punctuated by a blow-up in front of cameras during The Road To The Winter Classic.
But Chimera is a deeply proud player and came roaring back. In the playoffs, Chimera re-found his footing, tallying 7 points in 14 games. Playing on the same line as a breaking-out Evgeny Kuznetsov, Chimera scored 2 goals against the Islanders in Round One and chipped in another against the Rangers in Round Two.
Chimera brought that energy into the 2015-16 season, scoring 20 goals for the second time in his career. Chimera also contributed from the Caps’ second power play unit, burying four goals which I’m going to assume were all primarily assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov. General Manager Brian MacLellan maintained during the entire offseason that he hoped to bring Chimera back – for the right price. Two days before free agency, however, the Capitals told Chimera they would not.
In seven seasons in Washington, Chimera became a dependable player on the ice and in the community. When he came to a crossroads with a new head coach, Chimera chose humility over pride and became a better player. In a league that focuses on speed, Chimera is one of its most elite skaters, despite being three years away from being over the hill.
Jason Chimera is a special player and we were lucky to have him in Washington.
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