This wasn't how things were supposed to end for Zdeno Chara in Boston.
Not for the defenseman who helped steer an Original Six franchise to its first Stanley Cup title in nearly 40 years.
Not for the player who, since taking the helm of the Bruins' locker room back in 2006, has reigned over a fruitful era for this franchise — including two more trips to the Cup Final.
Not for the captain who took to the ice for three games in the 2019 Cup Final — a full shield protecting the assortment of screws, wires and plates keeping his shattered jaw together.
And yet, for as memorable as Chara's 14 years in Boston were, a fitting final chapter was ripped out before a storybook ending could be etched into existence.
Rather than exiting the TD Garden ice in 2021 in front of even a few thousand fans, the final sight of the future Hall of Famer in a black and gold sweater will be of him exiting an empty Scotiabank Arena in August — just minutes after a season filled with so much promise crumbled up in the Toronto bubble.
Instead, the Bruins will now soldier on with a D corps filled with uncertainty — with 25-and-unders like Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen bracing themselves for a baptism by fire as the new reinforcements on the left side.
In a year in which icons such as Tom Brady and Mookie Betts donned new jerseys, Chara stands as the latest pillar of a local franchise that will be ending his career elsewhere — with the 43-year-old skater inking a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals for just $795,000.
To throw salt in the wounds, the parting between player and franchise appears to have been sanctioned from the team itself, based on Chara's farewell post on Instagram.
Chara wrote: "Recently, The Boston Bruins have informed me that they plan to move forward with their many younger and talented players and I respect their decision. Unfortunately, my time as the proud Captain of the Bruins has come to an end."
So there you have it. In an offseason in which the Bruins handed out a $1.25 million contract to Kevan Miller, kicked the tires on Ben Hutton and tried to trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and his albatross contract — it appears as though Chara was not part of Boston's plans moving forward, not even for under $800,000.
Now, it'd be far too reckless to say that the Bruins don't have a plan.
Of course they have one. But just how conducive it is for this team at this juncture does raise some serious concerns.