Retire or return? Bruins’ Chara will be ‘open-minded’ about NHL future

1 Comment

The Bruins’ season is over and here come the questions facing the organization as they enter the off-season.

Will they re-sign Torey Krug? Does Tuukka Rask have a future in Boston? Is it time to break up the core?

One immediate question is if 43-year-old captain Zdeno Chara will retire or return for a 23rd NHL season?

Following Boston’s Game 5, double overtime loss to Tampa Monday night, Chara wasn’t ready to make a decision.

“I haven’t made that decision. I obviously just finished the game and I’m going to be open minded, he said.

The last two extensions Chara has signed came in March 2018 and March 2019, both one-year deals. That didn’t happen this spring, fueling speculation that Monday was the last time we’ll see him on the ice.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“I‘m obviously very proud of this group,” said Chara, who was selected in the third round of the 1996 NHL Draft. “Everybody made some huge sacrifices and we were a committed group to get back to where we left off at some point in March. I think that everybody showed up in great shape, ready to play, committed to come into the hub city and do whatever it took to play the best hockey that we could.

“I’m very proud of the group. Guys were playing very hard and doing whatever they could to win games. It’s a learning experience for many players and hopefully this will make this group stronger and more resilient for the future playoff runs. Definitely, it’s still very raw and disappointing. I know personally and speaking for all the guys, they left it out there and played with their heart.”

Charlie McAvoy has played three NHL seasons and been Chara’s defense partner since he joined the Bruins. Chara’s mentorship has made a big impact on one of the league’s best young defensemen.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to learn under this guy,” McAvoy said last week. “He’s as good as anyone in the entire league to learn under. I’ve learned so many lessons on the ice and off the ice. Like I said, it’s something I don’t take for granted. I’m extremely blessed and fortunate to learn under this guy and have him as a friend and a teammate.”

[NHL Second Round schedule]

With so many unanswered questions, the emotions felt heavier as the Bruins spoke afterward. It wasn’t just a playoff exit Monday night, it might have been the end of an era.

As the heart and soul and leader of that team, the Bruins players realize what a loss it would be if Chara retires.

“He’s an icon in Boston and it’s been – who knows what’s going to happen but it’s a pleasure to go to the rink with him every day and see the dedication he has to the game and has had to the game for so long,” said Brad Marchand. “It’s difficult to do what he’s done, day in and day out. The way he prepares and the way he still cares so much.

“He’s one of the most, if not the most driven person I’ve ever met. And he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best defensemen, best players to ever play the game. Like I said, it’s been a real honor to play with him. We have no idea what’s going to happen but he’s an incredible teammate and captain and leader and I don’t have enough good things to say about him.”

MORE: Lightning eliminate Bruins in double OT in Game 5

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.