Zdeno Chara made it clear Thursday that he wants to return to the Boston Bruins.
The defenseman, who can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the this season, said he is committed to coming back to the Bruins, who were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday by the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the Eastern Conference Second Round.
“I feel strong physically,” Chara said. “I’m positive and I believe that I can still play this game and contribute to the team. I want to stay in Boston. I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences and my game skills with the younger players and my teammates. That hasn’t changed. I’m committed. So we’ll see what’s going to happen next.”
The 43-year-old signed one-year contracts in March in each of the previous two seasons. He didn’t this season because the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He said his agent, Matt Keator, has not had talks with Bruins management about a new contract for next season but that he hoped the sides would start talking shortly. As he put it, “The sooner, the better.”
“I’m committed to Boston Bruins. I’m committed to Boston fans and the city of Boston,” said Chara, who is the oldest player in the NHL. “I’m excited about the future of this team. Like I said, we are going to do whatever we can to win another Stanley Cup.”
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney declined to comment on any contract negotiations, citing the standard end-of-season review process.
Chara, asked if he would consider playing for another team, said, “If it comes down to that, then that’s something that we can talk about later. But I love Boston. I love the city. I think we have the best fans in the world and I have no plans to move or go anywhere else.”
Chara has played 1,553 NHL games, 15th in history, during 22 seasons with the Bruins, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders. He signed with the Bruins as a free agent in 2006 and was named captain. He has scored 656 points (205 goals, 451 assists), including 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 68 games this season, and won the Norris Trophy, awarded to the defenseman voted best in the NHL, in 2009. He has 70 points (18 goals, 52 assists) in 195 playoff games and been to the Stanley Cup Final three times with the Bruins, winning the Cup in 2011, when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.
Defenseman Torey Krug also can become an unrestricted free agent, and the defenseman made it clear Thursday that he would prefer to return to the Bruins. However, with a flat NHL salary cap next season ($81.5 million), and Krug likely in line for a considerable raise, it’s not certain that Boston will be able to find space for him.
“I’ve spent my whole adult life, my whole professional career, here in this organization, city,” Krug said “I’ve done seemingly everything they’ve asked of me. I’m proud of that. I’ve put all my energy into trying to help this team win games and win championships. … There’s an emotional attachment.”
Krug said contact between his agent and the Bruins has been “very few and far between.”
“I’m not really sure what the future holds,” Krug said. “I’m willing to sit back and see what happens here.”
Krug has 337 points (67 goals, 270 assists) in seven NHL seasons with the Bruins. He scored 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) this season.
He signed a four-year contract with an average annual value of $5.25 million on June 30, 2016. That came after he signed two consecutive one-year contracts, worth $1.4 million for 2014-15 and $3.4 million in 2015-16.
Because of that, Krug said he is unwilling to sign another one-year contract.
“I’m very opposed to that,” he said. “I’ve bet on myself. I’ve taken shorter-term deals, less amount of money my whole career now. This is my time in terms of my value at its peak. I have the ability, I’m in a position now where I need to make the most of it.”