Zdeno Chara to the Washington Capitals. Who saw that coming?
We were dealt a shocker earlier today when the Washington Capitals announced the signing of veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year, $795,000 contract.
OFFICIAL! BIG Z TO DC!
The Washington Capitals have agreed to terms with defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year, $795,000 contract.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 30, 2020
First reported by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, the news sent shockwaves through Hockey Twitter, and the unthinkable was confirmed when Chara announced via his Instagram page that he was indeed leaving the Boston Bruins after 14 years.
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It is quite simply stunning that, not only have the Bruins opted to allow their Captain to hit the open market, but also that Chara has signed with the Washington Capitals who will play Boston eight times in the East Division in 2020-21, by the way.
We will of course take a deep dive into Chara’s impact on the Boston Bruins and the legacy he leaves behind on Thursday but, for now, we are going to assess this deal and give it a final grade.
Let’s delve right in…
Strength Upon Strength
Zdeno Chara is a surefire future Hall of Famer once he eventually hangs up his skates and he will go down as one of the best defensemen in the modern era.
His resume and accomplishments speak for themselves and it will be weird not to see Chara in a Boston Bruins uniform in 2020-21, or ever again in-fact.
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Instead, Boston’s loss is indeed the Washington Capitals’ gain and they are getting a veteran who can still bring something to the table.
Despite being 43-years-old and there being signs that the unbeatable father time is rapidly catching up with him, Chara still has something left in the tank and he can still play a role for a contender.
And that’s why this rapid marriage is perfect.
Chara will join a loaded Capitals team that are still right in the middle of their win-now window, while he won’t have as much pressure on him given that he won’t be wearing the “C” on his jersey.
Still able to lay the body on with his hulking 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds frame – as proven by his 78 hits in 2019-20 – Chara will add more physicality to that Washington backend and he’s still a puck-eating monster with 101 blocked shots last year.
We projected Zdeno Chara at 1 year for $2 million. $800k is a bargain. pic.twitter.com/arqDNtIP3p
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) December 30, 2020
Plus, with a decrease in his ATOI of 21:01 from 2019-20 almost certain, Chara could play a more refined role on the penalty kill while being kept fresh for the postseason, which is especially important in what will be a shortened 56-game season and a sprint to the finish line.
The left shot can still chip in with offense too and he’s just a perfect fit for the Capitals in terms of where they are at in their win-now window.
His wealth of experience and knowledge of what it takes to win will be invaluable come the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the 43-year-old just gives the Caps so much more depth and flexibility on their blueline now.
And, if the Capitals did indeed get complacent after finally putting their postseason demons to rest in 2017-18, then you can be confident that Chara will immediately drive standards up in that locker room and will push everyone, even Alex Ovechkin, to strive for the ultimate goal each and every single day.
And you can’t put a price on that kind of leadership.
Grading the Signing
This is a home run of a deal for the Washington Capitals. Pure and simple.
They are paying a future Hall of Famer, who has amassed 656 points (205 G, 451 A) in 1,553 career regular season games, just $795,000 for one year.
It is an absolute bargain.
It is also a low risk / very high reward type deal because, if Zdeno Chara’s play all of a sudden falls off a cliff, then the Capitals can just cut bait or use the veteran in a more leadership role without losing too much.
But, for all of the reasons mapped out above, if everything goes according to plan then Chara could help to push Washington over the edge as they go for another championship for Alex Ovechkin.
Likely to play less minutes in a more refined role, Chara will also benefit from playing on an already loaded blueline, and his ability to kill penalties, block shots, lay the body on and provide a physical and intimidating presence will tick a lot of boxes for this Caps team.
Again, you aren’t likely to get fireworks from Chara at his age, but he’s got enough left in the tank to be able to give the Washington Capitals that extra five or 10 percent they need when it matters most.
Also, with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Michal Kempny set to go on LTIR, not only will the Caps now have some flexibility and added depth when it comes to putting together their defensive pairings, but they will also be cap compliant by Jan. 12, 2021.
After signing Zdeno Chara, we now show the #Capitals with a 22-man roster and a projected salary cap of $85,129,877, which puts them $3,629,877 over the ceiling.
* Kempný and Lundqvist are LTIR eligible at $4M combined.
Clubs have until Jan 12 at 5:00pm ET to be cap compliant. pic.twitter.com/y4umop1WyE
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) December 30, 2020
Chara’s incredibly small cap hit will help in that matter too, and the Washington Capitals will be a better and deeper team for having the future Hall of Famer on their roster and on their backend heading into the 2020-21 NHL season.
Washington Capitals A+
Again, ranking 11th in the NHL in penalty kill time per game in 2019-20 with 3:11, while helping the Boston Bruins to the third best penalty kill percentage in the NHL (84.3), Chara will be invaluable for the Caps in a specialist role and can be used in all situations.
Overall, this is as good a signing as you can get for the Washington Capitals who get one of the best defensemen in the modern era at a bargain price, while Zdeno Chara will no doubt be motivated by a fresh challenge and by the opportunity to compete for another Stanley Cup.
This is the very definition of a home run of a deal.