You chalk this one down in the unexpected category as far as I am concerned, but it does sound like there is now at least a possibility that long time Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara may be headed elsewhere.
Like no doubt most of you, I assumed that there were two main reasons behind Chara's current status as a free agent. The first of those is simply the fact that at his advanced age, at least by the standards of the National Hockey League, retirement has no doubt become a factor and Chara may want as much time as possible to make such a difficult decision. The other factor that I believed was in play was that Chara would let the Bruins handle their offseason and would seek to negotiate his contract after a clearer picture emerged of what the Bruins had remaining against the cap.
It now appears though that the Bruins and Chara may be 'far apart' on a new contract according to the latest from Bruins reporter Jimmy Murphy. In fact according to that report Chara, or his representatives, have had conversations with at least 3 other NHL teams and those talks have progressed beyond the 'feeler' stage.
Now where things get really crazy is when it comes to which teams are currently rumored to be linked to Chara. In all 3 cases it would appear to be teams that have significant cap issues. Those teams are the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning, Chara's former team in the New York Islanders, and one of Boston's biggest rivals in recent seasons the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Lightning may seem to make very little sense on the surface given that they need to move salary out of the organization. That being said when the inevitable salary dump does come from the Lightning they will need players on cheaper deals to fill those vacancies, and a veteran with Chara's championship pedigree is exactly what you would be looking for in that kind of situation.
For evidence of that one need look no further than the Toronto Maple Leafs who have been signing veteran players to exactly those kinds of deals in the offseason. Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, Zach Bogosian and Jimmy Vesey were all brought in on cheap, short-term, deals and Chara would just be one more addition to that list.
The New York Islanders are in a similar situation as well and they have already had to make some tough decisions in the offseason. Star forward Mathew Barzal is still without a contract which likely means the Islanders will need to make more room on their roster to cut costs, and that is where a deal for Chara could suddenly become a fit. It would also give the big man a chance to potentially end his career with the team that drafted him into the NHL as well, so there may be a sentimental fit here as well.