Zdeno Chara is heading back to where it all began.
The 44-year-old veteran defenseman has signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders, the team he was drafted by in the third round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
“It’s kind of full circle,” Chara said on Saturday. “Who would know that this would kind of work out the way it did after 20-some years?”
Chara spent the first four years of his career with the Islanders, appearing in 231 games and scoring six goals, and tallying 23 assists. He spent the next four seasons in Ottawa before 14 years with the Boston Bruins where he captained the team from day one, leading the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Finals and a championship in 2011.
He spent last season with the Washington Capitals, appearing in 55 games and averaging 18:19 of ice time in his 23rd season. He had two goals and eight assists in those 55 games, his lowest point total since his second year in the league.
Zdeno Chara’s got a great chance to enter the top-10 in all-time games played in NHL history this season pic.twitter.com/lqMyq1zzN4
— Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty) September 18, 2021
The Islanders have been on the cusp of the Cup Final for a couple of years, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Final each of the last two seasons. General Manager Lou Lamoriello hopes the addition of Chara, Zach Parise, and the return of trade-deadline acquisition Kyle Palmieri is enough the get the Islanders over the hump. Chara believes the team has what it takes as he seeks his second Stanley Cup in year 24.
“It’s a very solid group with strong leadership and strong core players that have been part of the Islanders for a long time,” Chara said. “It’s a well-structured and cultured team now, and for sure they’ve been making a lot of noise around the league.”
The Islanders begin their season, and a 13-game road trip, on October 14th in Carolina against the Hurricanes.