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TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 09: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to an Eastern Conference Round Robin game against the Washington Capitals during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 09, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The end of the road may be here for Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

The on- and off-ice leader of the Bruins for the last 14 years, the 43-year-old defender is staring down the barrel of a game that’s only getting faster, and is without a contract for the 2020-21 season. The rumblings about Chara’s uncertain future only grew louder as the postseason went on, and from some of those connected to the game far better than you or I, too. NBC’s Doc Emrick went as far to make what felt like a well wishes farewell to Chara following the B’s season-ending Game 5 loss to the Lightning.

But speaking after the defeat, Chara confirmed that his hockey future remains unknown as of right now.

“I haven’t made that decision,” Chara admitted. “I obviously just finished the game and I’m going to be open-minded.”

Open-minded could mean lots of things.

By now, the relationship between Chara (and his agent) and Don Sweeney has been mutually beneficial in the sense that Chara has been willing to go year-to-year and take bonus-laden contracts to maximize the B’s ability to spend elsewhere. That wouldn’t change in 2020. And for what it’s worth, Chara has been curious about his hockey mortality in recent seasons. He has made calls to Mark Recchi, Jaromir Jagr, and Nicklas Lidstrom to ask when they knew it was time to walk away from the game.

Still, the 6-foot-9 defenseman said in April that he had no plans to retire at the end of the season. Perhaps the struggles of this postseason, and a second-round exit at the hands of the division’s strongest threat, has him reconsidering that.

This (hockey) life-or-death decision was not going to be answered in the raw moments following a defeat.

But no matter Chara’s decision this abbreviated offseason, there’s no denying his impact on this franchise.

“I’ve said all along, grateful to have an opportunity to coach Zee,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It was early in my NHL career so to speak, later in his playing career, so he helped me a lot. You almost feel like Zee probably helped me more than I’ve helped him.”

“He’s an icon in Boston and who knows what’s going to happen, but it’s a pleasure to go the rink with him every day and see the dedication he has to the game and has had to the game for so long,” Brad Marchand offered. “It’s difficult to do what he’s done, day in and day out. The way he prepares and the way he still cares so much and he’s one of the most, if not the most, driven person I’ve ever met. And he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best defensemen, best players to ever play the game.

“It’s been a real honor to play with him. We have no idea what’s going to happen but he’s an incredible teammate and captain and leader and I don’t have enough good things to say about him.”

The greatest free-agent signing in league history, Chara is one of six Bruins to play at least 1,000 games with the franchise, and his 1,553 career games are the 15th-most in league history.

Listen below for the latest episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast with Ty Anderson and Matt Dolloff:

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.