Slovak defenceman Zdeno Chara hasn’t yet decided on his National Hockey League (NHL) future and will do so in September, his agent told The Boston Globe. The 45-year-old was associated with the New York Islanders this season, his 24th in the NHL, and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 13.
Chara, aka the “Big Z”, had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) and was plus-8 in 72 games this season for the Islanders (37-35-10), which was fifth in the Metropolitan Division and did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The veteran ice hockey player had earlier agreed to a one-year contract with New York on September 18, 2021, and was the oldest active player competing in any of the top five major professional sports leagues in North America (NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS).
“He’s going to take the summer with his family and assess where he’s at physically, where his family’s at, and make a decision in September,” agent Matt Keator told the Globe in comments published on Saturday, as quoted by NHL.com. “No rush.”
“Will cherish this moment for the rest of my life”
The Trencin native Chara has 680 points (209 goals, 471 assists) in 1,680 regular-season games for the Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. He also holds the record for the most NHL games played by a defenseman, passing Chris Chelios at 1,652 when the Islanders lost 4-3 in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks earlier this year on February 24.
“It just completely unexpected and it was just an amazing feeling obviously to have that support from the fans,” said Chara, who played his first four NHL seasons for the Islanders after they selected him in the third round (No. 56) of the 1996 NHL Draft. “I can’t really describe it. I was getting chills. It was a spectacular moment and I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life. You know, very classy. Amazing.”