There is one difference this year, though. The Slovak defenseman will not be in the black and gold of Boston but rather will wear a Washington Capitals jersey.
“I still have gas, lots of gas left, and I still want to go out there and do my thing,” Chara told reporters Thursday in an introductory video news conference. “That’s my motivation to still proving that I can play.”
Chara, who fielded interest from several teams during free agency, signed a one-year, $795,000 deal with the Capitals on Wednesday. The deal came together quickly, according to Chara, who said Washington expressed interest a few days ago.
“I just saw this opportunity that I didn’t want to pass on, so I just decided it would be a good fit for me and my family, and I went for it,” Chara said.
Chara, who will turn 44 in March, is already in Washington and in quarantine. His family does not plan to relocate from Boston just yet, but he expects to join the team during training camp next week.
Chara did not sign with the Capitals to sit the bench, but it is unclear how big his role will be. On Thursday, he acknowledged there are “no guarantees” about his playing time. He recorded five goals and nine assists in 68 games with the Bruins last season.
“I just want to have a fair chance and compete with the guys for the Stanley Cup,” he said. “That’s something that is the goal, but we want to get there through the right process and through the right way.”
Chara’s split from Boston was amicable, according to the defenseman.
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said Thursday that Boston offered Chara a new contract months ago. Chara said he believed Sweeney “acted in good faith” during the negotiation process and the Bruins made it clear that Chara would be in more of a reserve role if he rejoined the team.
“I just felt like I had more to offer. And I respect their decisions and wish them the best, but I just felt like I could still play regularly and play the games,” Chara said. “I have no issues with them going a different direction; I just felt like for me, at this point in my career, it is better if I continue to play.”
Chara will join longtime Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in Washington. No longer rivals, the veterans will look to propel the team to another Stanley Cup. It will be no easy task with an aging core and a young goaltender. Washington will also have a new coach in Peter Laviolette, who is tasked with resetting the team’s culture.
“This is Alex’s team and Peter’s team, so I’m very much looking forward to trying to help them as much as I can with my experiences on and off the ice,” Chara said.
Chara’s signing brings back memories of Brooks Orpik’s role with the Capitals during their 2018 Stanley Cup run. Orpik was a well-respected leader in the room and a major influence to the younger players. Chara could have a similar role.
He joins a crowded blue line, with nine current defensemen on one-way contracts in Washington.
“We really have to be humble and motivated and just work for each other and support each other and really work together as a group to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Chara said. “But it starts with a training camp and opening game in the regular season, and we go from there. We can’t be looking at too much ahead.”