Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on October 22, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • Fans of big surprises were hit with a 6-foot-9 one on Tuesday, as former Bruins captain and current free agent Zdeno Chara was spotted at Warrior Ice Arena.

    Now, to be clear, this wasn’t quite like when Adam McQuaid skated with the Bruins back in 2019. If only because Chara never touched the ice. As far as we know, anyway. But a smiling Chara, who turned 45 years old last March, was indeed at the facility, appearing to say hi to his old friends.

  • Before we go too crazy here, this could quite literally be something something as simple as Chara stopping by the rink because he was in the area. (If he was hoping to bump into David Krejci, he was certainly disappointed, as Krejci has yet to arrive in Boston for any of the informal captains’ practices.) And that would make sense as being the reality, as Chara and his family still live in the area.

    Buuuuut, if we want to read into things, here’s what we do know…

  • ELMONT, NEW YORK - MARCH 27: Zdeno Chara #33 of the New York Islanders speaks with referee Jacob Brenk #26 during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the UBS Arena on March 27, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    ELMONT, NEW YORK – MARCH 27: Zdeno Chara #33 of the New York Islanders speaks with referee Jacob Brenk #26 during the first period at UBS Arena on March 27, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • Chara has yet to make any sort of formal comment on his playing future. The Islanders have already made it known that Chara is not in their plans for 2022-23, in case you’re curious. But his love for the game of hockey is still second to none, and the gym is still his best friend. (I mean, just look at the paparazzi-esque shot of him leaving Warrior. The dude’s still eating and lifting clean.)

    Chara is also somewhat bound by geography, however, as his family hasn’t traveled with him to either Washington or New York since he left the Bruins in 2020. In other words, he’s not packing up and going to the Western Conference. The distance is just too much. So, if there’s one place he’d want to play should he return to action for another NHL season, it’s most definitely Boston.

    And the Bruins are in full-on ‘reunion’ mode, with David Krejci signed back to the Bruins after a year in the Czech Republic. (The Bruins have also at times been linked to Torey Krug and Milan Lucic, even if it’s been loosely or just borderline hypothetical, at various points during the 2022 offseason.)

    There’s no doubt that Chara would want in on such a party.

  • BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 21: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden on December 21, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Predators won 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 21: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden on December 21, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

  • But would the Bruins?

    Chara’s split from the Black and Gold, the team he captained for 14 years and took to three Stanley Cup Finals over that stretch, was a bit of an odd one. The Bruins wanted to keep Chara in 2020, and my understanding is that they offered him more money than the Capitals. But the Bruins wanted to reduce Chara’s role, perhaps find more ‘rest nights’ for him, and go from there. The easier way to phrase that is that the Bruins wanted to let it truly become Charlie McAvoy’s blue line.

    The Bruins, as it turned out, were right.

    The Capitals utilized Chara in a third-pairing role and moved on from Big Zee after just one season, and Chara’s 16:56 of even-strength of time on ice for the Isles last year was his second-lowest nightly average in his last 16 seasons (only the 2021 Caps deployed him less frequently at evens).

    It’s also fair to wonder if Chara is finally out of NHL gas. I mean, the dude’s only played the most games by any defenseman in league history. Yeah, that’s right: League history. And it looked it at times last year, and even the year before for that matter.

    But if the reality of what he is at 45 years old and after 1,680 NHL games is indeed there for the iconic defenseman, is Chara worth a look as your potential eighth defenseman on a roster?

    That may come down to what you believe in from a team construct standpoint. There’s been rumblings of the Bruins still not being a sturdy enough team when it comes to the rough stuff. Chara can still obliterate faces, and his five fights in 2021-22 were tied for the 30th-most in hockey. His 5.56 hits per 60 minutes (all situations) were also 29th-most among a group of 138 defensemen with at least 1,200 minutes played last season.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 29: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period of the game between the Bruins and the New York Rangers at TD Garden on November 29, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 29: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period of the game between the Bruins and the New York Rangers at TD Garden. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • Of course, there would be tremendous amount of irony in the Bruins signing the oldest defenseman in the league after a summer of their leadership tandem saying again and again that the team needs to integrate more youth. 

    But the Bruins also know that they can never have enough defensemen. 

    “Possibly,” Sweeney said back in July when asked about potentially adding even more defensemen to a group that already features eight NHL defensemen when fully healthy (Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy will begin the year on the shelf). “You get into the season you just never know. You start with two injuries, who knows, you knock on wood you’re not going to have more, but it’s challenging.”  

    No team knows about defensemen landing in the infirmary more than the B’s. 

    And because it fits my desired narrative, it’s worth mentioning that Sweeney had some praise for Chara when asked (out of the blue, might I add) about his legacy. 

    “As far as his legacy with the Boston Bruins, [Chara] goes down as one of the best and greatest,” Sweeney said. “Really ultimately changed the culture of where the group was when he came on board and won a Stanley Cup and was a champion in this city, both on and off the ice and an iconic player, obviously, to have the most games played ever as a defenseman in the National Hockey League. That one might not be broken. As a person, just a really special individual on and off the ice.” 

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 12:  Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to Game Seven of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 12: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to Game Seven of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • Right now, this seems like a hello and nothing more.

    That update, of course, makes this the deepest dive in any sort of hello since you talked to your middle school crush back in, y’know, middle school.

    But… but… but, if Chara goes full late-career Roger Clemens and decides that he wants to latch onto a contender in the middle of a season in pursuit of another Stanley Cup as a deserved end to an absolutely absurd career, another visit to Warrior Ice Arena may just be his first stop.

    Especially if Reunion SZN remains in full effect.