On Monday, reports surfaced that the Boston Bruins are quietly shopping veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara. Chara has been a cornerstone of the franchise and one of the top defenders in the league for years now, so any mention of the Bruins looking to move him is likely to raise eyebrows. Chara has a no movement clause, and perhaps the report is pure speculation, but make no mistake about it: The Bruins would be wise to move Chara sooner rather than later.
Chara is 38 years old. We know from Money Puck of Canucks Army that Chara is well past what is typically the prime, or even productive years, for a defensemen.
With a top pair defensemen at the age of 38, the Bruins are playing with house money. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Chara’s production plummet soon, and the Bruins aren’t likely to contend this season, so dealing Chara while his perceived value is still high makes a lot of sense.
Here’s a look Chara’s goals above replacement (GAR) over the past 5 seasons.
The two seasons with a noticeable dip come with caveats. 2012-13 was the lockout shortened season, so while his GAR would not have reached the levels of some of the other seasons on the graph, Chara only had 48 games to accumulate GAR that season.
2014-15’s total is low in part because Chara only appeared in 63 games thanks to injuries. But, given Chara’s age, injuries are a legitimate concern when it comes to limiting his availability, and thus his production, moving forward. While Chara hasn’t had chronic injury concerns in recent seasons, the fact that he missed a chunk of time last season, and has already been injured in 2015-16, combined with his age, are cause for concern.
Here’s a look at Chara’s 5v5 production over the past five seasons.
After providing consistent production over the previous four seasons, Chara’s production was more than cut in half last season. Could this be just a blip? Yes. But, this could also be the beginning of a steep decline for a defenseman well past the typical prime years for a hockey player. The Bruins shouldn’t wait to find out which is the case, as Chara’s value could begin to drop if they hold onto him long enough to show that his production is in significant decline.
Chara’s possession numbers are still very strong, as he posted a 54.2 percent shot attempt percentage last season and a +3.7 percent relative shot attempt percentage. This was the eighth consecutive season Chara has posted a positive relative shot attempt percentage. But dig a little deeper in his 2014-15 possession numbers and there may be cause for concern.
In 2014-15, Chara skated 685:10 with Dougie Hamilton, during which time he had a 57.1 percent shot attempt percentage. Chara skated 398:07 apart from Hamilton and saw his shot attempt percentage plummet to 49.3 percent during those minutes. Obviously, Dougie Hamilton isn’t on the Bruins this season. Was he propping Chara up, possession-wise? Not necessarily. But it’s certainly a possibility. And if it turns out to be true, will Chara’s trade value have taken a significant hit by the time the Bruins come to this realization?
Chara is still a productive NHL player. But there are signs that point to the fact that the aging curve may have finally caught up to the 38-year-old. His trade value is likely still very high. Given the fact that the Bruins probably won’t contend this season, they should deal him sooner rather than later instead of running the risk of his trade value dropping.