By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It's entirely possible that Zdeno Chara's 14-season run with the Boston Bruins is over.
An unrestricted free agent for the first time since 2006, the 43-year-old Chara is 'looking at all his options' for next season. He's already drawn interest from multiple teams, and Chara has made it known that he'd like to be back and playing hockey next season. Preferably in Boston. The Bruins, meanwhile, have said that they're waiting for Chara to initiate talks.
There's enough smoke to think there's a deal to be made, but it's Oct. 27, and Chara remains without a contract. And the Bruins already have eight one-way contracts signed to their backend for 2020-21.
Again, it's entirely possible that the 6-foot-9 captain's days in Boston are over, and it was brought up by NBC's Raul Martinez in an interview with Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy last week.
"If Zee ends up in another uniform, then we have to rely on these young guys," Cassidy told Martinez. "I guess that’s how I look at it as a coach. You try to separate the personal side of it. You go to bat with these guys every day. It’s a privilege to coach them. But then people change, there’s trades, there’s people that move on, and then, you’ve got to worry about the next guy."
That group of potential next guys includes NHL veterans Matt Grzelcyk and John Moore, Jeremy Lauzon (25 total games last year), and potential Boston-to-Providence jumpers Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril. If the season were to begin today, without Chara (and with Torey Krug off to St. Louis) you're likely looking at a Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy top pairing.
But that's the way it goes sometimes, and Cassidy knows it.
"I don’t want to sound impersonal, but that’s the way a coach sometimes has to look at it [like], ‘Well, we’ve got to get the best out of the next guy that’s going in the lineup,’" said Cassidy. "We’ll see how it plays out. No matter what, he’s been a legend in a Bruins uniform, and that's a tough one. Very difficult one. But we’ll see how it goes."
Chara, one of six skaters in franchise history to appear in at least 1,000 games with the Bruins, scored five goals and 14 points in 68 games last year, and his plus-26 rating was the eighth-best in all of the NHL.