Chara, who is entering his 23rd NHL season, announced Wednesday on Instagram that he was leaving Boston after 14 years. The 43-year-old defenseman, who was an unrestricted free agent, said the Bruins told him they planned to move forward this season with their “many younger and talented players” and he respected their decision.
Chara was a respected leader in Boston and was the longest-tenured captain in the league before he signed with Washington. He recorded five goals and nine assists in 68 games with the Bruins last season. His plus-26 plus/minus rating was his best since 2011-12.
“As I begin this next chapter, I want the people of Boston to know how proud I was to be a Bruin and how grateful I am for all of the support over the years,” Chara wrote in his post. “‘Thank you’ does not seem adequate to express my sincere gratitude. I will always be a Bruin. I will always love Boston.”
Chara, who has recorded 205 goals and 451 assists in his career, won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011. The tallest player in NHL history at 6-foot-9, Chara also will be the oldest player in Capitals history and is the oldest active player in the league.
“Of course a legend, a legend of the game,” Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon told Vancouver’s SportsNet 650 on Wednesday, shortly after the signing was announced. “The team is obviously getting better and better each day and, just with signings like this, show how strongly we feel about our team.”
MacLellan told reporters last week that Washington was happy with its roster but was “open to making changes and improving.” The Capitals then signed veteran goaltender Craig Anderson to a professional tryout agreement Sunday and Chara to his one-year deal Wednesday.
Chara joins Washington just days before the start of training camp, and his arrival marks the team’s latest attempt to add a veteran presence. The Capitals also signed Henrik Lundqvist, the longtime New York Rangers goaltender, in October. But Lundqvist announced this month that a heart condition has sidelined him for the upcoming season.
Washington now has nine defensemen under one-way contracts available to start the season: John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Justin Schultz, Jonas Siegenthaler, Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Paul LaDue, Dillon and Chara. The Capitals also have Martin Fehervary, who played in six NHL games last season, at their disposal.
Washington assistant coach Kevin McCarthy, who will be in charge of the defensemen, has indicated that he would like eight capable blue-liners when the season starts. During a pandemic-shortened season with a plethora of back-to-back games in a condensed schedule, having extra bodies on the blue line should help.
Chara is the fourth defenseman Washington has added during free agency and the only one of that group who is a left-handed shot. Other defensemen down the left side of the Capitals’ blue line are Dillon, Orlov, Siegenthaler and Fehervary. Chara initially would appear to bump Siegenthaler out of the lineup on the third pairing.
Signing Chara for only $795,000 will allow the Capitals to remain under the league’s $81.5 million salary cap when the season starts. Michal Kempny and Lundqvist will both be placed on long-term injured reserve, which will clear up a needed $4 million in cap space.
Capitals training camp starts Sunday, with on-ice workouts beginning Monday, and their first game is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Buffalo against the Sabres.