Zdeno Chara has been the captain and the face of the Boston Bruins franchise for the past decade. His reign with the Bruins’ “C” is surpassed only by Hall of Famers Dit Clapper and Ray Bourque. The fact that he only has one Norris Trophy to his name is downright criminal. He was the first Bruin to hoist Lord Stanley’s Silverware in nearly four decade.
Now there are rumblings and whispers that Captain Z might be on his way out.
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTSS) October 12, 2015
According to some members of the local and national hockey media, the Bruins are quietly exploring the market for Chara and other veteran members of the B’s core after early returns on Claude Julien’s squad have looked… several degrees short of spectacular. While the thought of Chara in something other than Black and Gold might fill Bruins’ fans with bile–it might be best for the player and the organization.
There’s an argument to be made that he was the best defenseman of the intra-lockout era, rivaled by legendary d-men like Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Nick Lidstrom. One could also posit that after the monumental figures of Bourque, Bobby Orr and Eddie Shore–he ought to take his rightful place as the fourth bust on the Mount Rushmore of Bruins blueliners (with all due respect to Clapper and Brad Park).
Chara’s No. 33 will one day rise to the rafters of the Garden, and the Slovakian Giant will join his peers as an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Before either, he might find a detour in the form of a ‘win now’ contender. If he wishes it. Chara possesses a full no-movement clause, and given his reputed loyalty and desire for a leadership position (something that helped draw him to Boston back in 2006) he might not give up his position so readily.
But, distasteful as it might sound, both sides (player and team) should totally explore it.
if the Bruins trade Chara I swear to god
— amanda☁️ (@mandytbh) October 12, 2015
Hold up, hold up! Give me a minute to explain!
The Bruins are in a position to eat half of Chara’s annual cap hit as they attempt to go through a rapid rebuild while Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask are still in their primes. That would leave a little under $3.5 million for the acquiring team to dish out–which is pocket change for a top-pairing defender. Additionally, that hit would drop to $2 million in his age 40 season, increasing the attractiveness of such a deal.
Defensemen are ridiculously sought-after commodities. Even with Chara’s advanced age and declining skillset, he could squeeze into almost any top pairing, save maybe in Chicago or Nashville. Name one blueliner potentially available who is at Chara’s level.
Maybe Dustin Byfuglien (at least on the attack). There is no one who can bring skill, physicality, intensity and poise at both ends of the rink on the market. This makes the prospect of dealing “Z” an easier pill to swallow.
If Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney could adroitly weave a deal out of the fading force that is Zdeno Chara, it makes sense for Boston. The Bruins are clearly not the prime contenders they were a few short years ago, and stocking up on youth and picks might be just the salve this ailing franchise needs to rebound before the 400th anniversary of the landing at Plymouth Rock (2020). The Bruins lineup has too many ‘filler’ pieces. They need some Grade-A quality in the pipeline to support the team’s established stars at both ends of the rink before the next window closes.
“Big Z” could rest on his laurels, play in Boston for three more middling seasons before skating off into the sunset, the captain’s “C” decorating his uniform, a badge of honor and distinction. But a player of his caliber (and, let’s face it – a history with multiple teams) should go out clawing and scratching for another Cup to add to his resume.
Could he be the missing piece that settles the locker room brouhaha in San Jose? Would his presence elevate the Dallas Stars from exciting offensive run-and-gunners to dyed-in-the-wool contenders? Might one Big Z enhance the chances of an already-potent Anaheim lineup?
These aren’t scenarios I envision coming to fruition. Others feel the same. I have sincere doubts about the veracity of these reputed murmurs and feel that the possibility is a longshot at best. Despite the sour taste, no one will begrudge Zdeno another run or two at a championship, even in a different city. No matter what, when he’s remembered, it will be the Spoked-B and the city where big No. 33 ended a 39-year title drought.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand