It is apparently still the time of the Ent. Zdeno Chara might not be what he once was, how could anyone be, but at the age of 41 he is still an effective force on the back-end for the Bruins. If only other d-men around could have aged so gracefully.
Cleary, Chara does not dominate the game like he once did. From the heights of the beginning of the decade, Chara’s metrics now hover around the team-rates, including bottoming out last year at a -3.9 CF% relative. He’s back to right at the team-rate this year. His xGF% never swung too far below from what the Bruins were doing as a whole, as though he may have given up more attempts as the years have worn on it’s still pretty hard to get to the high-danger and middle on a d-man with the wingspan of Mothra.
The Bruins have helped the cause. Chara has been taken off the power play for the last three seasons, and is averaging just five seconds per game on it now. Which basically means he’s out there when the penalty is ending. This year, they’ve tried to cut the amount he’s out there on the kill as well, averaging less than three minutes of kill-time per game for the first time in four seasons. Clearly, the Bruins know that 41-year-old legs can handle only so much.
Chara’s offensive production has fallen off in recent years, and he’s been paired with more offensively inclined d-men like Charlie McAvoy of late. It was only two seasons ago that Chara put up 37 points, but he has only seven in 37 games so far this year. Chara’s charge has been to simply be a free-safety for McAvoy most of the time, which his body is more attuned to.
It also helps that Chara has kept himself in great shape, so even though the tasks and job-description change, he’s able to perform them. While the Bruins may wish to get that booming slapshot up the ice more often or his underrated vision, they realize what they have. Perhaps at that age, you do what you’re told no matter what. At least some people do.
But Chara has always carried more water than that. He’s the longest-serving captain in the NHL, wearing the “C” for the Bruins for 12 years, basically since he walked in the door from Ottawa in 2006. Which makes what comes next so awkward, or could.
Chara is on a one-year deal for $5M, and has made it clear he has no plans to stop playing. At this point he’s made enough money that he doesn’t need to break the bank, but the Bruins also aren’t going to want to insult him with an offer. The Bruins have about $20 million in space for next season, though McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are going to see pretty big raises. The Bruins also desperately need a winger or two to maximize the last prime years of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, as the latter has been forced to play with muppets and scarecrows basically all season. The Bs are expected to be major players for Artemi Panarin in the summer, and if they miss out there you can be sure they’ll be after Matt Duchene or Mark Stone or the like. With Bergeron 33 and Marchand 30 and Krejci 32, you can see the urgency.
So Chara will probably have to wait until after July 1st to see what the Bruins have left for him, but he’s not going anywhere else. And eventually, probably next year, will have to move down the lineup to a second or third pairing. But he’s done well with being asked less, and there’s no reason to think that will stop.
Game #57 Preview Suite