For all the intriguing options that the Bruins are set to roll out on a revamped blue line in 2021, few offer much in terms of assured production and stability on a D corps in need of some foundational pieces.
Charlie McAvoy is poised to build his game as Boston's next franchise defenseman, while Brandon Carlo very well could thrive as Boston's shutdown ace and PK anchor in 2021 and beyond. Matt Grzelcyk is taking a big leap in terms of minutes and responsibilities from his usual spot on the third pair and second power-play unit, but the underlying numbers paint the picture of a defenseman that could excel under a heavier workload.
But beyond that, there are few set-in-stone options on the blue line — whether it be Kevan Miller and his injury history or a slew of promising, but unproven, defensemen further down the pipeline. Even younger players who impressed last season like Jeremy Lauzon are no sure bet to hit the ice running in what will be a compressed and frantic 56-game slate in 2021.
Given the current state of a defensive unit poised to serve as Boston's Achilles' Heel unless a wave of 25-and-under skaters thrive off of the baptism by fire that awaits, a logical route for Boston to take in the closing weeks of the offseason is to bring back captain Zdeno Chara for a 15th season in a black and gold sweater.
And yet, even with the framework of a new season now mapped out and approved by both the NHL and NHLPA, it doesn't appear as though there has been significant progress made between both player and team on a potential return for the future Hall of Famer.
"Well, we still have to flesh that out," Cam Neely said of Chara's status on Monday via Zoom. "I think Zee was waiting to see what the schedule looked like, how it may impact his decision. So we're still fleshing that out."
For the Bruins President, one of the primary questions regarding Chara's future in Boston lies in where exactly he fits on this roster moving forward — especially as Boston looks to give the likes of Lauzon, Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen every opportunity in camp to seize one of the top-four vacancies left in wake of Torey Krug's departure back in October.
"It's tough to say," Neely said of Chara's potential role on the 2021 Bruins. "We do want to take a look at some of these young, left-shot Ds that we have in our system and see if they can step up, or is it the time for them to step up and see where they're at in their development. We certainly respect Zdeno and everything he's done for the organization and what he's accomplished as a player and what he's done both on and off the ice here in Boston. So it's really just a matter of what his desire is and how the coaching staff and we feel what our lineup should look like and could look like, depending on the development of some of these young guys."
Now, even if one of Lauzon/Zboril/Vaakanainen excels in a featured role this season, the benefits of inking Chara to a one-year deal still far outweigh any potential negatives with such a move.