Editor’s note: On Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m. ET, NESN will be airing “Chara at 1000,” celebrating Zdeno Chara reaching the 1,000 game milestone in a Bruins uniform. In the lead-up to that, we will be remembering Chara’s finest moments in Boston — both on and off the ice. For more stories celebrating Chara, click here.
The Boston Bruins made it as far as they did in the 2019 postseason for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the depth they had up front, at the blue line and in net.
And while Don Sweeney deservedly earned General Manager of the Year last season, he has, at least in part, Zdeno Chara to thank.
In March of 2018, Chara was nearing unrestricted free agency with his seven-year, $45.5 million deal set to expire that summer. Instead of hitting the market, Chara and Sweeney worked to get a one-year deal done that paid him just $5 million, which was below market value for a captain that was playing big minutes on the top defensive pairing.
But in reaching that deal, the Bruins were able to have the cap space to afford Jaroslav Halak, John Moore, Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner in free agency.
Halak played almost an even split with Tuukka Rask, allowing Rask to be fresh as a daisy for the playoffs.
Moore was a nice depth defenseman that logged big minutes in the postseason while playing through an injury.
Nordstrom became one of the Bruins’ best defensive forwards and an essential penalty killer, forming one of Boston’s best fourth lines in years. That fourth line also included Wagner, who had a career year offensively and since has signed a three-year contract extension.
Then at the trade deadline, the Bruins were able to get Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, who formed a dynamite third line with Danton Heinen in the postseason. And though Johansson left in free agency, Coyle will be with the franchise for years to come, recently signing a six-year extension with the Bruins.
It wasn’t just a one-time thing, either. Chara took even less money for the current campaign (he now has just a $2 million cap hit), and it seems he’s content playing on one-year deals until he decides to call it a career.
While many say winning trumps all (and certainly most believe that), Chara has shown how much he buys into that by example.