Defenseman Zdeno Chara returns for a 24th NHL season in 2021-22, agreeing to terms Saturday on a one-year deal with the New York Islanders.
“I was very grateful for the opportunity to play for the Islanders,” he told the media yesterday. ‘It was my first team. My first NHL experience.”
The 44-year-old veteran of 1,608 games started his career with the Islanders, who drafted him in the third round in 1996. He played last season with the Washington Capitals, contributing two goals and eight assists in 55 games.
After the Caps were eliminated, Chara was pressed about his future. “I think it’s not always a decision I can make myself,” he explained. “Sometimes there are things in life you have to realize, and I have to have a conversation with my wife and children and see where we want to be in the next few days or weeks. After those conversations, I’m going to probably let the emotions settle in and see where I’m at.”
Where he’s at is back where it all began.
Chara comes full circle with Islanders
“It’s kind of a full circle,” Chara said. “Who would know this would work out the way it did after 20-something years. I’m certainly very honored to be an Islander again. Obviously, the organization went through some transitions over the course of 20 years, but we all see the progress and the positivity that is where the team is at.”
Chara admitted there were other teams interested but was being respectful by not naming them. Ultimately, it was a family decision and they were happy it was back to where it all began.
“You never know how your career will evolve and how it will end up, but obviously nobody can really imagine to be finishing where they start,” Chara said. “It just worked out that way, and I’m glad it did. I’m happy to be an Islander again. That’s just the way it sometimes works.”
Chara still wants to win
Chara has 666 career points (207 goals, 459 assists) and 2,000 penalty minutes in 1,608 games with the Islanders (1997-2001), Ottawa Senators (2001-06), Bruins and Capitals. His plus/minus rating of plus-293 ranks No. 1 among all active NHL players.
A six-time NHL All-Star, Chara won the 2008-09 Norris Trophy and the 2011 Stanley Cup during his 14-year run as a captain of the Boston Bruins from 2006-20.
“I love the game,” Chara said. “I have passion for the game and believe that I can still play. Those are the things you need. And I don’t think you need to say much besides having love for the game and having passion for it and wanting to win.”
He also has 70 points (18 goals, 52 assists) in 200 playoff games. The 6-foot-9 Slovakia native was just the second European-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup, joining Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.
Terms of the contract with the Islanders were not disclosed.
–Field Level Media contributed to this report