That’s a goal shared by Chara and his representatives, but accomplishing it is still a slow process.
"We haven’t gotten too far into it," said Matt Keator, Chara’s agent, of the negotiations when reached by phone Monday afternoon. “We’ll see where it goes. Not much has happened. I wish I could tell you more, but there’s not much to say at this point. We’ll talk more [with the Bruins] during training camp."
The Bruins open camp on Sept. 17, and Keator plans to speak with the Bruins again in September. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli stated earlier this month that he is working on signing both Chara and Patrice Bergeron, who is also entering the final year of his contract, to extensions.
Keator noted that the sides had not spoken recently, but did hope to get a new deal in place before the start of the season.
"Ideally, obviously," said Keator when asked if he hoped to get a deal done before the regular season began, but he also added, "There’s no rush. We all know each other and are comfortable with each other."
While many teams and players prefer to avoid the distraction of contract talks during the season, the Bruins under Chiarelli have worked out new deals during the year with several current players. Tim Thomas signed a four-year, $20-million extension in April 2009, while Milan Lucic, Tuukka Rask and Marc Savard all signed extensions during the first three months of last season. Keator is open-minded to the possibility of continuing talks for Chara into the season as well if necessary.
"That’s still up for discussion," said Keator. "We’ll see how it goes."
Chara is on the fifth and final year of a club-record $37.5 million deal he signed when he left Ottawa as a free agent in 2006. His current cap hit is the highest on the Bruins at $7.5 million. At 33, he could be looking at his last big multi-year deal, though in light of the NHL’s rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk’s heavily front-loaded 17-year, $102-million deal with New Jersey, don’t expect the Bruins to try to reduce his cap hit significantly by adding several low-dollar years at the tail end of his next contract.
"It all factors in," said Keator of the impact of the Kovalchuk decision. "It affects the marketplace, but it all depends on how the deal is structured. If you have a lot of 550s [$550,000 salaries] at the end then you could be in trouble."
While Chara’s future beyond this year remains undetermined, Keator did state that the star defenseman is completely healed from the hand injury that hampered him much of last year and is eager to get the new season under way.
"He’s fine," said Keator. "He’s skating and biking. His hand is 100 percent. I spoke with him last week and he’s all set and ready to go."