The New York Islanders announced on Saturday that they have signed former Washington Capitals left-handed defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year contract at an unknown cap hit. The 44-year-old became an unrestricted free agent on July 28.
Chara recorded two goals, 10 points, a +5 rating, a 49.5% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 52.33% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.63% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 55 games last season. Chara averaged 18:19 per game, including a team-high 2:41 on the penalty kill. He added a +1 rating in the Capitals’ five-game first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series loss to the Boston Bruins, his former team.
In 1,608 career regular-season games with the Islanders, Capitals, Bruins, and Ottawa Senators, Chara has earned 207 goals, 666 points, and a +293 rating.
With the addition of Chara, the Islanders fill a hole on the left-side of their second-pairing after trading Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings in July. The team averaged 2.23 goals-against per game (second in the NHL) and earned an 83.7% penalty-killing rate (sixth) last season.
In 200 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Chara has earned 18 goals, 70 points, and a +49 rating. He led the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Final appearances as captain, including a title in 2011.
With Chara no longer an option, the Capitals now have one less option to replace Brenden Dillon after trading him to the Winnipeg Jets for two second-round picks in July. They have yet to replace him and the best internal options appear to be Martin Fehervary, who has played in six career regular-season games, and Michal Kempny, who missed the entire 2020-21 season after his second major surgery in a span of 17 months.
The Islanders also signed left-handed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a PTO earlier this week.
Training camps across the NHL are slated to open on Thursday and preseason is set to begin on Saturday.
Chara and the Islanders’ first visit to Capital One Arena this season will be on Tuesday, March 15. The two teams will face off for the first time on Thursday, December 23 at UBS Arena.
If Chara plays 44 games this season, he will become the NHL’s all-time games played leader among defensemen, passing Chris Chelios (1,651), Scott Stevens, Larry Murphy, and Ray Borque. Stevens and Murphy also suited up for the Capitals during their respective careers.
By Harrison Brown