So the 43-year-old defenseman decided to move on after 14 seasons with the Bruins, turning down their contract offer to play a reduced role this season and agreeing to a one-year, $795,000 contract with the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
“I just felt that what was presented to me and the conditions that were attached to it, I just felt like I had more to offer,” Chara said Thursday. “And I respect their decisions and wish them the best, but I just felt like I could still play regularly and play the games. …
“I still have gas, lots of gas left and I still want to go out there and do my thing. That’s my motivation to still prove that I can play.”
By joining the Capitals, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and have legitimate aspirations to do so again, Chara is embracing a new opportunity entering his 23rd NHL season and following a similar path to his friend Tom Brady. The 43-year-old quarterback left the New England Patriots after 20 NFL seasons and six Super Bowl championships to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
“I definitely see a new opportunity, new challenges,” said Chara, who confirmed he spoke with Brady about his decision. “But also, very much I’m extremely motivated and I’m looking forward to go out there and play and compete. … I think we all have to compete and play our best and the most important thing is to win the games as a team. So just that’s where I’m at right now.
“It’s something I had to try. I didn’t want to have any regrets not to try it and not go for it.”
Chara, who is already in Washington and has begun quarantining and the testing that are part of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, is driven to win another Stanley Cup after he captained the Bruins to the Cup Final three times, winning the championship in 2011. He’d love to mirror the success Brady is already having with the Buccaneers, who have qualified for the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Chara is in a good position to do that with the Capitals, who are in win-now mode and hoping to raise the Stanley Cup at least one more time with their aging core, which includes forwards Alex Ovechkin (35), T.J. Oshie (34), Nicklas Backstrom (33), and defenseman John Carlson, who turns 31 on Jan. 10. However, the memory of Washington winning its first championship is beginning to fade after being eliminated in the Eastern Conference First Round in each of the past two seasons.
“I just want to have a fair chance and compete with the guys for the Stanley Cup,” Chara said. “That’s something that is the goal, but we want to get there through the right process and through the right way.”
It’s not that Chara wouldn’t have had a chance to win the Cup again with the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top team in the regular season in 2019-20, and general manager Don Sweeney made it clear Boston would’ve loved to have him back as its captain.
However, Sweeney couldn’t guarantee anything about Chara’s playing time or role since Boston wants to give young defensemen such as Jakub Zboril (23), Jeremy Lauzon (23), and Urho Vaakanainen (21) the chance to play regularly and learn on the job.
“We described it as an integrated role and just didn’t make a categorical promise that he would have the exact same role that he had had in certainly his 14 [seasons] — a historic career with the Boston Bruins,” Sweeney said.
Chara said that meant he probably wouldn’t play every game and wouldn’t have been in his usual role as a top-pair defenseman averaging at least 20 minutes of ice time.
“It was very clear to me that I would not be in the starting lineup for the season or starting some games or playing some back-to-back games and I would be more in a reserve type of player,” Chara said. “So again, I have no issue. … A lot of credit to Don Sweeney and how he handled the situation. But again, for me, I felt that it would be a better fit for me to find a better role with another team and kind of step aside and let the Boston Bruins go the direction they chose to do.”
The Capitals haven’t guaranteed Chara anything either. He’ll likely slot into their third defense pair and play with their first unit on the penalty kill — one of the 6-foot-9, 250-pound defenseman’s strengths — as well as provide valuable veteran leadership.
But after Washington first expressed interest a few days ago, Chara liked what he heard in his conversation with coach Peter Laviolette and was ready to jump aboard.
“I just saw this opportunity that I didn’t want to pass on,” Chara said. “So I just decided it would be a good fit for me and my family and I went for it.”