Were you one of those people that was holding out hope for a return of the tallest player ever in the NHL, the man that’s left a 6’9″ sized hole in our collective hearts since he and the Bruins “mutually” decided to part ways? Were you a bit impressed but still cringed a little that the big man was still playing competitively and had won the hearts of the Capitals fans and players last season? Are you still hoping he will return to the Black and Gold?
I have news for you and you will not like it. Zdeno Chara will not be donning a Bruins sweater. In fact he’ll have a different kind of homecoming: he’s returning to the New York Islanders.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) September 18, 2021
Way back in 1996, Zdeno Chara was a 19 year-old who was selected in the third round, 56th overall in the NHL Entry Draft. From there he spent a year playing in the WHL to get accustomed to the North American game with its smaller rink size. He played for a couple of different AHL franchises before breaking into the NHL to stay in 1999. Yes, that was 22 years ago.
Favorite Zdeno Chara story. In his rookie year he took a seat next to me on the team bus. I was seated at the window, and when he sat down he pinned me so hard against the glass I thought he was mad at me. He said, “Sorry I so big”. Great guy and gentle giant. Welcome back, Z.
— Howie Rose (@HowieRose) September 18, 2021
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— EVERYDAYISLES (@EverydayIsles) September 19, 2021
The deal is a one-year deal that allows the defenseman to be close to his family who are presumably still living in Boston while taking one more shot at winning the Stanley Cup. The only thing is that details of the deal have not come out yet and there may be a good reason for that.
We know that money is not an issue for Chara as he took nearly league minimum to play for Washington last season. But, money is an issue for the New York Islanders who are currently without cap space right now; teams have until the night before the season starts to set their rosters and become cap compliant. Right now, they are about $4,479,188 over the cap, all of which would be LTIR; Johnny Boychuk’s final year under contract will account for $6 million in LTIR cap space due to his career-ending eye injury. There might be more space depending upon where captain Anders Lee is in his recovery from multiple knee injuries.
But wait, there’s more! Well, not more LTIR but rather something worse; buried cap penalties. While the Islanders are all done paying for recent contract buyouts, they chose last season to bury Thomas Hickey’s contract in the AHL, which would be fine if he made only slightly more than $1 million. Since his contract is for more than that, the Islanders are on the hook for $1.375 million. So, that complicates the cap situation just a little more.
So, right now, Chara’s cap hit is unknown.
I’m sad that Chara isn’t coming back to the Bruins. I know it might’ve been awkward for him. He’d walk into the room and see the sweater emblazoned with the “C”, putting it on only to realize it not only doesn’t fit, but bears the number 37 and another man’s name. Bergy would have enough respect for the big guy to just have his moment and not embarrass him about. No doubt he’s caught Brad doing the same thing so many times while posing in the mirror while listening to “Barbie Girl”.
I guess if Chara had to return to a team, we should all be glad it’s the Islanders to because this could be his final season and what better way to end a career than with the team where his career began and that traded him away before he really learned how to put it all together. He did his best work with the Bruins and for that we are eternally grateful. It would never had happened if Mike Millbury wasn’t desperate, stupid, and terrible at his job.