Wednesday is Day 6 of NHL free agency and Zdeno Chara remains unsigned.
Chara made it clear earlier this offseason that he wanted to continue playing and wanted to stay in Boston. Given that he was willing to sign a one-year deal with a $2 million cap hit last season, he presumably would have been willing to sign a relatively cheap (probably even cheaper than $2 million) one-year deal again.
Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, made it known on the first day of free agency that “numerous teams” had reached out, but we haven’t heard anything since.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has said multiple times that he’s been in communication with Chara and his agent, but his words have seemingly been carefully chosen as he has stopped short of saying publicly that he wants to or intends to bring Chara back.
“There’s communication between the two sides and again I’ve had a great deal of communication with Zdeno and his representative Matt Keator, to make sure there is no ambiguity in terms of that,” Sweeney said on Saturday. “And whatever Zee decides to do, ultimately, he’ll tell us. We’ll react accordingly to that.
“We have our own feelings as to where these things will go. We’ve certainly relayed them. We’ll continue to relay them. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s an iconic player, a person and a leader, and things that we want to make sure that we’re dealing with this with the utmost respect as we try to treat all our players with and communicate it as effectively as possible. Like I said, we take a lot of pride in that, making sure that there is really, no really unanswered questions in that regard or ambiguity.”
The problem is that publicly there is very much some ambiguity and unanswered questions. It’s possible that the unambiguous message Sweeney and Co. have communicated to Chara is, “Here is our offer,” but it’s not an offer that’s been to Chara’s liking.
Or there could be a mutual understanding that the Bruins are going to fill in the rest of their roster first, sign their restricted free agents, and then Chara will selflessly just take basically whatever the Bruins have left to pay him.
But what if the unambiguous message is, “Hey Zdeno, thanks for everything, but I don’t think we’re going to bring you back”?
As long as Chara remains unsigned, we can’t dismiss that possibility. Remember that the Bruins re-signed Kevan Miller on a one-year deal with a $1.25 million cap hit on the first day of free agency. That’s another deal the Bruins probably could’ve waited well into free agency to get done, but they didn’t.
Also, how much more roster building are the Bruins going to do? They missed out on top free agent forward Taylor Hall. They didn’t trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson or any of the other defensemen who have been traded, namely Devon Toews and Nate Schmidt.
Maybe Sweeney will still swing a trade for a top-four left-side defenseman. But with so many question marks on that side of the blue line and so few veteran leaders back there in the wake of Torey Krug’s departure, Chara would seemingly be a nice safety blanket regardless of whether they make another move or not.
If a return to the Bruins isn’t in the cards, perhaps Chara is weighing other offers, waiting for the rest of the market to shake out, or even debating whether he wants to play elsewhere. At the same time that Chara’s agent said other teams had checked in on him, he also said Chara would take his time to make a decision, suggesting there may actually be a decision to be made.
Until something gets done, all we can continue to do is wait and wonder.