Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara will be an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, but it appears his future could remain murky well into the summer.
Tuesday, Chara’s agent Matt Keator told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that the future Hall of Famer is back home in Slovakia. While he’s “working out hard”, he has not made a decision yet on if he will retire or not and is “leaving all of his options open.”
Don't expect a quick decision from UFA D Zdeno Chara.
Agent Matt Keator: “Z is in Slovakia spending time with family. He is working out hard and leaving all of his options open. There is no rush on anything with him.''@TSNHockey @TheAthletic
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 27, 2021
The plan seems similar to how Chara approached the 2020-21 season. The Stanley Cup champion waited until approximately a week before NHL training camps opened before agreeing to a one-year, $795,000 deal with the Capitals.
“We’ve talked to his representative,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said after the NHL Draft on Saturday. “We might check in again here when [free agency] opens up to see if he’s serious or not about coming back.” MacLellan added that re-signing the rearguard depends on “where the salary ends up and if we have room based on our roster decisions.”
During Breakdown Day in May, the 44-year-old Chara admitted he was unsure if he’d return for a 24th season.
“This season didn’t end the way we wanted, but that’s life,” Chara said. “You have to move on. As far as myself and my future, I’m probably going to take a few days to talk to my family and make decisions after. I think that, obviously, it’s not always a decision I can make myself. Sometimes there are things in life you have to realize. I have to have those conversations with my wife and my children and see where we’re going to be in the next two days or weeks. After those conversations, I’ll probably let those emotions settle in and see where I’m at.”
The Capitals appear to have room, both on the depth chart and under the salary cap, to bring back Zee after sending Brenden Dillon and his $3.9 million cap hit to the Winnipeg Jets. The move allowed the Capitals to re-sign Alex Ovechkin to a five-year, $47.5 million deal on Tuesday and opened up a logjam on the left side of the defense. Prospect Martin Fehervary is expected to graduate to the NHL next season and Alex Alexeyev, another lefty, could join him in the NHL too possibly the next season. Chara could serve as a stopgap and a mentor to Fehervary, a fellow Slovakian, if he decided to return.
Chara played 55 of 56 games for the Capitals last season, tallying 10 points (2g, 8a), and was a crucial part of the team’s penalty kill which finished the season fifth-best in the league (84%). Chara also played in his 1600th NHL game of his career in April. Chara was the 13th NHL player and fifth defenseman overall to hit the
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