ZOOM — The Washington Capitals shocked the NHL world on Wednesday when it signed 6-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year, $795,000 contract. If you exclude Michal Kempny (who will spend the entire year on LTIR with a torn Achilles tendon), Chara’s deal makes him the ninth defenseman on the team with a one-way contract.
Thursday, shortly after noon, Chara spoke with national reporters from his new temporary housing in Washington DC. Chara, no longer the captain of the Boston Bruins where he has spent the last fourteen seasons, rocked a red t-shirt and spoke through his Apple iPad.
“It was a very, very hard decision for me and my family, but at the same time, I’m excited to start kind of a new chapter with the Washington Capitals,” Chara said to the media on Zoom.
“Obviously, it’s been a long process since September,” Chara continued. “I’ve been going through difficult decisions, different options of what were presented to me. It was never clear what would be the best fit. A lot of things were happening during free agency. There were different signings, different trades. It was a very busy offseason for every NHL team.
“A few days ago, basically, Washington Capitals kind of informed us about their interest. I just saw an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up on. It was a good fit for me and my family and I went for it.”
Chara ultimately decided to leave the Bruins after general manager Don Sweeney was upfront with The Big Z and told him that his role would be greatly diminished during the 2020-21 season. I “would not be in the starting lineup for the season, not starting some games and not playing some back-to-back games. I would be more a reserve type of player,” Chara said.
In 68 games last season, Chara skated 21:01 minutes a night, scoring five goals and tallying nine assists.
According to Sweeney, the Bruins had “multiple discussions” with Chara throughout the year and offered him a contract “months ago.” But the Norris Trophy-winner wanted time to think over his new role and never found himself feeling comfortable proceeding.
“We didn’t make a categorical promise that he would have the same role that he had in his historic career with the Boston Bruins,” Sweeney admitted according to ESPN.
Zdeno Chara discusses his off-season negotiations with the Bruins, and what ultimately led to the decision to move on to a different team. pic.twitter.com/vLvzDQhnYf
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 31, 2020
A spry Chara, 43, also revealed during the chat that he went into the offseason open to retirement, but his love for the game and the minutia of training never waned during the fall months.
“We were in that pause when we’d usually start a season,” Chara said. “I decided that if I start skating and going back to training, I would be quickly honest with myself if there would be some sort of questioning or hesitation going out on the ice and doing all these routine trainings that I’ve been doing before, and that never appear. I still have a lot of fun out on the ice. I still love working hard and getting ready and getting up in the morning and doing all that routine. To me, that was an indication that I still have lots of gas left in the tank and I still want to go out there and do my thing. That’s my motivation: still proving that I can play.”
Chara s unclear what his role will be in Washington — “I don’t have all the answers” — and admitted that a lot depends on how he performs during Capitals training camp which begins Monday, January 3.
“I can tell you I always take a lot of pride in my defensive game over the course of my career,” Chara said. “I always take a lot of pride playing top lines, going against top players. If that’s going to be the case, I always try to do my best. Obviously, penalty killing is one of the strengths of my games. I try to use my size and my reach to cover as much area as I can. It’s something, at this time, all these details still, we need to work out.”
Chara is currently quarantining in DC and is scheduled to take the ice sometime next week at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
“I’m very excited to join a new team. I’m excited to meet my new teammates. I can’t wait to get started,” Chara said. “From what I heard, from the conversations I already had with some of my teammates, it’s a great group of guys that are very motivated.”
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