It didn’t take very long for the narratives to start on Monday night.
Just minutes after the Bruins’ season came to a disappointing end in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBC broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick offered an extended soliloquy on Zdeno Chara's Hall-of-Fame career, waxing poetic about the veteran defenseman's impact on this Bruins club for the past 14 years and hinting at an uncertain future entering the fall.
Chara, now 43 years old and with a contract set to expire in a few weeks, didn't necessarily quiet the whispers of his potential retirement immediately following Boston's double-overtime loss to the Lightning — with the B's captain noting that he was going to be "open-minded" as far as what awaits him in 2021 and beyond.
But speaking on Thursday morning, Chara was far less cryptic when it comes to his plans for the upcoming season.
"I feel strong physically and I’m positive and I believe I can still play this game and contribute to the team and I want to stay in Boston," Chara said. "I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences and my game skills with the younger players and my teammates. That hasn’t changed. I’m committed and we’ll see what’s going to happen next."
Chara — who noted that he's already asked his agent, Matt Keator, to speak with Bruins management about the upcoming offseason — is currently in uncharted waters when it comes to his contract situation. While his seven-year, $45.5 million contract extension expired back in the summer of 2018, Chara and the Bruins hashed out a pair of one-year contracts in both March 2018 and 2019 to extend his tenure in Boston.
But this season, no short-term contract was struck before, during or after the COVID-19 pause back in March — with the imposing defenseman set to technically hit free agency once the calendar turns to October.
Still, Chara expects to work something out with the franchise that he has anchored for over a decade, adding that both he and his family would not want to uproot themselves and move elsewhere if another team came calling.
"I am confident," Chara said of working out a deal with Boston. "At the same time, you’ve been in the business and around hockey for so long that you know that there are different circumstances and possibilities. But as of right now, I’m excited. I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to play for the Boston Bruins. Again, we will see what the decisions are going to be made and that’s something up to my agent and like I said, the senior upper management to kind of go over it."
Yes, after getting bounced by a faster, tougher and more skilled Lightning team for the second time and three seasons, the Bruins are going to have to take a long look at their roster and evaluate how best to make the most of this core's dwindling championship window.
But if Chara is ready for another crack at a Cup, it should be a no-brainer for Don Sweeney and Co. ... with some conditions, of course.