It will take a while before we find out whether or not pending UFA defenseman Zdeno Chara will return for another NHL season. His agent Matt Keator told Matt Porter of the Boston Globe that the veteran intends to take his time before deciding about his playing future:
He’s going to take the summer with his family and assess where he’s at physically, where his family’s at, and make a decision in September. No rush.
The 45-year-old completed his 24th NHL season in 2021-22, returning to the Islanders who originally drafted him back in 1996. Chara played in 72 games this past season, recording 14 points while adding 125 hits and 90 blocked shots. Notably, he logged 18:44 per game, good for fifth among New York blueliners while still taking a regular turn on the penalty kill. All in all, it was a decent return on the $750K base salary plus $750K in performance incentives for the Islanders.
Of course, that type of role is a far cry from being the top blueliner on a team (and even the league with his Norris Trophy win in 2008-09). At this stage of his career, Chara is more of a depth player than an impact one but could still help the right team in a limited defensive role. He sits 20 games shy of being the seventh player in NHL history to reach 1,700 but is still 99 appearances behind Patrick Marleau’s all-time games played record so it’s not as if one more year would give him a chance at setting that new benchmark.
There’s no real risk for Chara to wait out the market and see where things stand in September. Contracts like the one he’d be getting (likely a minimum salary with games played incentives once again) aren’t that difficult to get in the days leading up to training camp so he will have the chance to be selective to see if there’s a good fit for him. If not, he can hang up his skates after quite an impressive career.