Why the Canucks should try to sign defenceman Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara remains available in free agency. Here’s why the Vancouver Canucks should try to land the future Hall of Famer.

Salary cap issues forced the Vancouver Canucks to endure more subtractions than additions in free agency.

Gone are goalie Jacob Markstrom, top-six forward Tyler Toffoli and two fan favourites in defencemen Troy Stecher and Chris Tanev. In come veteran All-Star goalie Braden Holtby (signed in free agency) and top-four blueliner Nate Schmidt (acquired via trade with the Vegas Golden Knights).

General manager Jim Benning hasn’t been able to unload any of his expensive veteran contracts. So barring any surprises, the salary cap issues will carry over to the start of the season.

But if Benning can get creative in opening up cap room, he may be able to make one more big splash in free agency.

Longtime Boston Bruins captain and future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara remains unsigned. A return to Beantown felt like a lock, but he’s still available more than a month after free agency opened.

Last week, Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now had this interesting bit to share:

“Numerous sources had checked in with Boston Hockey Now this past week saying that it appeared the Bruins and the future hall of famer were ‘far apart’ on a potential new contract and that Chara has had more than just feelers with ‘more than three teams’.”

Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, emailed Boston Hockey Now and said his client is “Waiting On Format For New Season. No rush.”

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If Chara is truly open to leaving the Bruins (and that seems to be the case), the Canucks should make a hard push for the 43-year-old. Chara was instrumental in helping Boston win the Stanley Cup on Vancouver ice in 2011, but now would be a good time to call a truce.

Maybe Chara would be intrigued by the idea of reuniting with Benning, who served as Boston’s assistant GM before he was hired by the Canucks. He may already have a Stanley Cup on his resume, but you have to think that Chara is prioritizing a contender late in his career.

Well, Vancouver is hoping to build off a thrilling 2019-20 season that saw them fall just one game short of reaching the Western Conference Final. Chara would join a promising core of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes,

Chara averaged 21:01 time on ice per game in 2019-20. His role is going to have to be reduced if he plays in 2020-21, and the Canucks shouldn’t have a problem with that. Hughes, Schmidt, Tyler Myers and Alexander Edler should slot in the top four.

Chara can be used especially in a penalty killing/shutdown role. Head coach Travis Green could get creative with his usage of Chara: He could mentor Olli Juolevi on the bottom pairing, work alongside Hughes in the top-four or even form an all-giant duo with Myers.

Now that would be quite the imposing defensive tandem!

Chara hasn’t made a decision on his playing future, and odds are he’ll return to Boston if he decides to play again.

But the Canucks should at least reach out and see if there’s a deal and fit to be had, because Chara could be a valuable addition to a team that’s looking to make the leap in 2020-21.