Photo: The Boston Globe
A day after signing a one-year contract worth $795,000 contract with the Washington Capitals, defenseman Zdeno Chara said that unrestricted free agency has “been a long process. I’ve been through a lot of difficult decisions.” He told the media on his first conference call with the Washington media on Thursday that the Capitals showed interest in signing him “a few days ago “and said, “it wasn’t an opportunity that I wanted to pass on.”
“I just always fall back on preparation and consistency and playing my best when I step onto the ice,” Chara told the media. “I love the game.”
After Boston Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney told the Boston media on Thursday morning that Chara would not have been in the same role as he has been in years past with the team, Chara said “I just felt like I had more to offer and I respect their decision.” The 42-year-old still thinks he can play regularly and “has no issues” with the Bruins wanting to get younger.
On negotiating with Sweeney, Chara said “I respect the way it was handled.” He revealed that had he re-signed with the Bruins, he would not be in their top-six defensive group to start the season. Chara admired Sweeney on how he handled the situation while negotiating.
Regarding his playing time on the Capitals this season, Chara said that “nothing is guaranteed in Washington.”
“It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to meeting my new teammates and get started. … It’s a great group of guys and I am very motivated,” he continued. “I definitely see a new opportunity and new challenges. I’m excited to go out there and play.”
When asked about being on the same team with captain Alex Ovechkin after many years of competing against him, Chara said “We all know [Ovechkin] is a very good player. He is the leader of the team … a future Hall-0f-Famer. We all know what he brings on the ice and how hard he competes.” He added that he is excited to play with Ovechkin.
After Sweeney told the Boston media this morning that Chara’s successor as Bruins’ captain is pretty obvious (center Patrice Bergeron), Chara told the media that “There is no doubt that [Bergeron] will be the next captain. … He’s going to be an unbelievable captain and leader. I can’t imagine anyone else being captain.” Chara is “very happy” for Bergeron.
On what the Capitals have to do to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chara thinks that “we can’t be looking too much ahead … but we have to approach it one day at a time. … We have to be humble, motivated … and there for each other.”
Chara told the media that he is already quarantining in Washington. Training camp begins on Sunday for the team.
Chara said that he talked with new head coach Peter Laviolette about his status and how he fits into the Capitals’ lineup. He added that “I just want to compete with the guys for the Stanley Cup” and he wants to go through the process “in the right way.”
On when he will retire, Chara said “When it comes, it comes and you know. … I still have fun going on the ice and love working out. … I still have a lot of gas left.”
Chara wished Henrik Lundqvist well as he is set to undergo an open heart procedure soon if he has not already. Chara said “Just because someone’s a certain age doesn’t mean they won’t perform well,” when asked about the Capitals’ goalie situation with Ilya Samsonov set to take over for his first season as the No. 1 and Vitek Vanecek having no NHL experience under his belt. The Capitals signed Craig Anderson to a PTO earlier this week as a security blanket.
“Playing the Washington Capitals every game was very hard. They always showed speed and skill. They have so much depth. I feel right now most guys are on the peak of their careers,” Chara said.
When asked to deliver a message to the Boston fans after he, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (signed with Tampa Bay Buccaneers), former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (joined Brady with the Buccaneers) and former Boston Red Sox third baseman Mookie Betts (signed with Los Angeles Dodgers) went elsewhere this year, Chara said “I want to thank all the fans. They show so much passion over the years. I will always call Boston home. Those are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life but I’m excited to start a new chapter with the Washington Capitals.” Chara added that he loved his time in Boston for the past 14 years.
Regarding his role for the 2020-21 season with a crowded Capitals’ blueline, Chara said that “I don’t have all the answers but I take a lot of pride in my defensive game. … Penalty kill is a strength of my game. I try to use my size and weight to cover as much area as I can.”
On playing the Bruins eight times this season, Chara said “It’s going to be a strange feeling for sure.” The Capitals and Bruins will play for the first time this season on Saturday, January 30 at Capital One Arena. Chara will return to TD Garden for the first time with the Capitals on Wednesday, March 3.
By Harrison Brown