SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins have a lot of work to do in the offseason, but they got a head start Saturday.

With 42-year-old captain Zdeno Chara set to hit free agency this summer, the Bruins locked him up on a one-year deal with $2 million in base salary and $1.75 in incentives.

“I’m very honored to be a Bruin for another season. I can’t say enough about the guys we have and how much they mean to me,” said Chara. “It’s a lot of fun coming to the rink every day.”

It’s a team-friendly deal for the Bruins, who can set their sights toward bringing back restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen, all due for pay raises.

“I’m really happy he’s coming back,” McAvoy said. “I don’t think of anything other than the game tonight, not too far down the road. But when this season comes to an end, which is hopefully a long time from now, that he’s coming back is super exciting. Coming back, I know that I have my D-partner back. … I look forward to continuing to play great hockey with him.”

The Chara deal is a lot like last season, when he signed a one-year extension worth $6.75 million. The new deal takes some money off the books and gives them a lot of flexibility to sign other players.


“I think we all know next season is very important for our organization,” he said. “Just wanted to make sure, having talks with Don (Sweeney), he puts the team in the best possible position for the upcoming season. For sure, that was something we considered.”

Chara’s game, for being in his early 40s, hasn’t waned terribly in his 21st NHL season. He missed 19 games because of a torn MCL but has rebounded to continue to serve as a top-pairing defenseman with McAvoy.

“It’s always been our understanding that we would continue to talk to him and let him decide, ultimately, where his well-being is – mentally, physically, the whole bit,” Sweeney said. “We spent a lot of time last year, a unique situation, because Zdeno wanted to know about the landscape moving forward, going year-by-year and how imperative it was for us as an organization.

An important piece of the penalty kill as well, and constantly matched up against the top offensive talent in the league, Chara still averages nearly 21 minutes per game, which is third on the team.

McAvoy likely will demand in the $7.5 million range, with Carlo and Heinen in the $4 million zone. The Bruins will have roughly $14 million in cap space to start the offseason.

Marcus Johansson, who has played just three games with the Bruins since coming over from the Devils before suffering an injury, is a free agent in the offseason, as is Noel Acciari. Taking their contracts off the books would open some room if McAvoy’s contract is pricier than they hope.

Assuming McAvoy and Carlo stick around and the Bruins keep all their defensemen on the current roster (not a given, with Urho Vaakanainen likely to get a look, and Connor Clifton making a good impression), Chara could be their cheapest defender out of their starting blueliners. At the very least, he’d be the sixth-highest paid.

“It had to go year-by-year,” Sweeney said. “You get into a situation being over 35, it becomes pretty important. He has a wider-angle view, and was able to look at his own feelings of where he was going to be year by year.”

For someone who still is playing at a level high enough to be a top-pairing defender, even at age 42, that’s about as team friendly a deal as anyone could hope for.

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