When it comes to discussing other players who might be affected by Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract rejection, most of the conversation revolves around players whose deals have already been signed like Roberto Luongo. The fact is, though, that it might have just as much of an impact on players getting ready to sign new deals.
Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe thinks that Zdeno Chara might feel that impact since he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2010-11 season and might actually be one of the few players who could honor a contract that goes into the rare 40-plus area.
The 33-year-old defenseman is entering the final season of his contract, and while nobody expected Kovalchuk to be lacing up his skates at age 43, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chara still in uniform in his 40s. Chara, who once relied strictly on brawn and intimidation, has already begun his transition into a Nicklas Lidstrom-type defenseman with an emphasis on positioning, smarts, and stick skills.
“He wants to play a long time,” said Matt Keator, Chara’s agent. “He’s got the motivation on and off the ice to do so. He’s got the type of game to do so. He wants to win a Stanley Cup, two, or three. That’s his focus. He feels like this team’s moving in the right direction. He’s pretty excited about next season.”
Chara is currently in Slovakia, where he is building a cabin for his family, most likely swinging the ax and chopping wood himself. Given Chara’s commitment to conditioning, the former Norris Trophy winner could be an exception (Mark Recchi is another) to Bloch’s sampling.
(I couldn’t help but add that part about him building a log cabin in there. That’s manly and awesome.)
As Keator says later in that article, Chara’s $7.5 million annual cap hit contract happens to be one of the rare examples of a blockbuster deal actually benefiting both parties. Chara got his money (and term) while the Boston Bruins have been one game from the Eastern Conference finals for two straight seasons and received one Norris Trophy season from the towering defenseman.
The Kovalchuk rejection might make it difficult for the two sides to find common ground again, though.