We got the post-mortem on the “Zdeno Chara to the Washington Capitals” news today, with Don Sweeney speaking to the media in Boston and Zdeno Chara meeting with the media in Washington, DC.
We all knew that we were never going to get anything super juicy from Chara, a guy who has never been one to make headlines with his words off the ice.
However, what Chara had to say is actually pretty interesting:
Zdeno Chara -- on zoom call -- said BOS negotiated in good faith (he declined to badmouth the Bruins), but he chose to move on because role would be limited..."more of a reserve player."— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 31, 2020
Yes, a “reserve” role.
It appears that, at least in Chara’s estimation, the Bruins envisioned him as a Steven Kampfer-type of player, a guy who would be around if needed but wouldn’t play regularly. A 7th defenseman, basically.
If that’s the case, it’s certainly easy to see why Chara declined the offer.
Most of us assumed that if Chara was going to return, it’d be in a more limited role: 2nd or 3rd pairing, less PK time, etc.
I’m not sure anyone really thought the Bruins would propose bringing their captain back as a rotational player.
For his part, Sweeney declined to elaborate on what the two sides discussed in terms of Chara’s role.
“We certainly offered a contract to [Chara] months ago,” he said. “He indicated he wanted time to continue to work through...where he felt where he was at...and what the role we were describing [was]. That did include looking to integrate some of the younger players that have had an opportunity to develop in our system and us trying to see whether they were capable of handling minutes and situations that they had not been exposed to.”
“We describe it as an integrated role,” he continued. “[We] didn’t make a categorical promise that he would have the exact same role that he had had...I was very sad. It’s unrewarding in the aspect of the job to see a player like that choose to leave.”
Again, Sweeney didn’t want to get into specifics when asked if the two sides had discussed Chara not being an every-game player.
“We were making no promises in terms of what our roster and lineup would be and what the minutes were every night,” he said. “I’ve had discussions over the years where we were paring back some situational minutes and hard minutes...no different from days I’ve had talks with Patrice on trying to spread that around and trying to be a complete hockey club and have depth in our lineup...from a penalty killing situation.”
It’s not that hard to read between the lines here: yes, Sweeney and Chara’s camp discussed pared back minutes, a lesser role, etc, so there’s no way the Bruins didn’t bring up Chara not playing every night.
I can understand why Sweeney wouldn’t divulge the intimate details of the contract discussions in the interest of privacy, but Chara didn’t get the idea that he’d be a reserve player out of thin air.
So there you have it! Chara, by most accounts wanted to stay here, play here. The Bruins wanted to use him as a 7th defenseman, and he decided that wasn’t the way he wanted to spend the waning days of his NHL career.
Yes, it ended up being Chara’s choice - but the Bruins didn’t exactly make it a difficult one.