Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had the ultimate Florida man experience

Matt Kalman
March 23, 2019 - 11:17 pm

Some people go to Florida to retire, some visit for vacation and others head down to help steal an election.

Forty-two-year-old Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara went to Florida to celebrate, and he made sure there were a few reasons to do so Saturday.

Just five days after his 42nd birthday Chara signed a one-year contract extension with the Bruins on Saturday morning and then he scored the 200th goal of his NHL career in a 7-3 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. The win clinched the Bruins their third straight berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Boston will next face Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay on Monday.

The goal made Chara the 22nd defenseman in NHL history to reach that milestone. The contract extension made Chara one of the best bargains in the NHL. He’s scheduled to count against the Bruins’ salary-cap for $2 million next season with $1.75 million in easily achievable performance bonuses. That’ll give general manager Don Sweeney flexibility to re-sign his restricted free agents and make other moves to make sure there’s a high-caliber team around Chara.

“Well I think that we all know that next season is very important for our organization and I want to just make sure that we, with having talks with Don, we placed the team in the best possible position for upcoming seasons,” Chara said before the Bruins mauled the Panthers. “So for sure that was something that we considered the most and put the most value on it and tried to work around it.”

Chara was averaging 20:59 of ice time before the Panthers game, but even with Boston going on the penalty kill just once he led the team in ice time at 25:07. Coach Bruce Cassidy probably figured Chara was having such a good time he’d let his captain play some old-school minutes.

It’s the minutes he's played for this season and the 13 before in a Bruins sweater, and the way he’s performed in them even while playing with a healing MCL tear, that convinced Sweeney to go at least one more year with Chara in the Bruins’ top four. And it helped that Chara was willing to play amateur GM and take a contract that could keep the Bruins from a cap crunch.

“You go in segments of games, you see where his ice time is. Defensively he still impacts our hockey club every night. Hard matchups, situational minutes, PK time, you know really go-to minutes in the course of a hockey game that other teams don’t enjoy when he’s on the ice,” Sweeney said. “We’ve given him some mobility alongside of him with Charlie [McAvoy>, and certainly the puck play as well. Brandon [Carlo> as well has covered ice for Zee. But Zee has adapted his own game. He’s worked at it an awful lot. I just think the situational minutes that we’ve been able to manage a little more effectively, and he’s bought into that.”

It's apparent Chara has bought in finishing out his career with the Bruins. There’ll be plenty more trips to Florida in his future, but they’ll all come with the goal of taking down the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Loose pucks

Chara also had an assist in the win. … Noel Acciari had a goal and a fighting major (vs. MacKenzie Weegar), coming an assist shy of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. … Rookie defenseman Connor Clifton assisted on Acciari’s goal for his first NHL points. … The Bruins surpassed 100 points (they have 101) for the second straight year and 23rd time in franchise history.

 

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