With the Boston Bruins set to begin an abbreviated training camp in about a week, much of the focus around the team regards captain Zdeno Chara.
NHL owners and the players union agreed over the weekend to the framework of a 2021 season, which would begin Jan. 13. It remains to be seen whether Chara — an unrestricted free agent — will be with the Bruins. Speaking Monday with reporters on a video call, Bruins president Cam Neely said there’s no development to report on the Chara front.
“We still have to flesh that out,” Neely said. “Z was waiting to see what the schedule would look like. ? We’re still fleshing that out. …
“We do want to take a look at some of these young left-shot D?s that we have in our system to see if they can step up or is it the time for them to step up and see where they’re at in their development,” Neely added. “We certainly respect Zdeno and everything he’s done for the organization and what he’s accomplished as a player and what he’s done both on and off the ice here in Boston, so you know it’s really just a matter of what his desire is and how the coaching staff and we feel what our lineup should look like or could look like depending on the development of some of these young guys.”
Without Chara in the fold, the most likely scenario — barring injuries or further roster movement — involves Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore on the left side to start the season. At some point, Urho Vaakanainen is projected to get his chance to prove himself at the NHL level. Prospect Jack Ahcan also could force his way into an opportunity.
If Chara returns, the Bruins could still give younger players a look, especially given the nature of condensed season coming off a short training camp. That still needs to be settled, according to Neely.
“It really depends on what he feels he can do and help us, and we have to feel the same way, how that looks,” Neely said. “Is that something that he would be comfortable with, how we maybe envision it looking compared to maybe he how feels it may look?
“This is a really difficult time for anybody that is going to come off a long break and have a short training camp and jump right into a compressed schedule with a numbe rof back to backs, and I think 116 days I believe to play 56 games, so there’s a lot of factors in play about what makes sense for us and what makes sense for Zdeno.”
The Bruins open camp Jan. 13.