Zdeno Chara realized at some point in this frenzied NHL offseason that a return to the Boston Bruins wasn’t in the cards. Landing with the Washington Capitals, however, didn’t become the leading option until just recently.
Chara made the seemingly difficult decision to walk away from the Black and Gold, signing a one-year deal with the Caps on Wednesday. The former Norris Trophy winner explained his decision in a conference call with the media Thursday.
“I’ve been going through some difficult decisions and different options were presented to me. It was never clear what would be the best fit,” Chara explained. ” … It was a very busy offseason for every NHL team, but a few days ago, basically, the Washington Capitals informed us of their interest, and I just saw this opportunity that I didn’t want to pass on. I just decided it would be a good fit for me and my family going forward.”
The defenseman, on more than one occasion, indicated nothing was guaranteed with the Capitals, and he’ll have to earn his ice time. Chara sounds more optimistic he’ll get a chance to play a lot in D.C. than he would have should he stayed in Boston, where Bruins general manager Don Sweeney envisioned an “integrated role” for the captain.
“I just felt what was presented to me and the conditions attached to it, I just felt I had more to offer,” Chara said. ” … I just felt I could still play regularly and play the games and I have no issues with them going a different direction. I just feel for me at this point in my career, it’s better if I continue to play.”
Once the Capitals came calling, it’s easy to see how that idea might be appealing to Chara, especially given Boston’s struggles with Washington over the years. Only the Bruins and Tampa Bay had more points in the Eastern Conference a season ago.
“It’s a group of guys who competes very hard, they play very hard and play with a lot of speed, a lot of skill. Every time we played Washington, we had to bring our best, and for most of the time, we didn’t do well against them,” Chara recalled. “They had so much depth and so much skill, it was hard to play them. I just feel right now, they’re in the peaks of their careers and only getting better. It was very hard to play against them, but now it’s hopefully going to be a lot of fun to play with them.”
While Chara wouldn’t delve too far into specifics about what he’d like to do in Washington, he was more than willing to sell himself when asked what his ideal role would be with his new team.
“I take a lot of pride in my defensive game over the course of most of my career. I take a lot of pride to play against top lines and going against top players,” Chara said, referring to his work as a shutdown, top-pairing D-man for most of his career.
“If that’s going to be the case, I always strive to do my best. Obviously, penalty killing is one of the strengths of my game. I try to use my size and my reach to cover as much area as I can. It’s something that, at this time, all these details we kind of need to work it out.”
Chara will get the first chance to make his case on ice when the Capitals open training camp next week.