Zdeno Chara, Chris Wagner, Nick Ritchie, Par Lindholm, Charlie McAvoy

Zdeno Chara, center, hopes to return to Boston for a 23rd NHL season. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Zdeno Chara isn’t ready to retire. The 43-year-old defenseman hopes he and the Boston Bruins can come to a an agreement for a contract for the 2020-21 season quickly.

“I think I addressed that question before we left for Toronto,” said Chara, back in Boston after Tampa Bay eliminated the Bruins from the playoffs. “I feel strong physically. I’m positive and I believe I can still play this game and contribute to the team. I want to stay in Boston. I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences with the younger players. That hasn’t changed. I’m committed. We’ll see what’s going to happen next.”

After Monday’s season-ending loss, Chara, whose minutes and role have diminished in recent years, sounded hesitant.

“I haven’t made a decision. I just finished the game. I’m going to be open-minded,” Chara said.

But back in Boston, he said he’s eager to continue, and he has instructed his agents to reach out to Bruins management in hopes of a quick deal. Chara is an unrestricted free agent. He didn’t rule out the idea of playing for another team if Boston chooses not to make an offer.

“I’m committed to Boston. I’m excited about the future of this team,” Chara said. “I expressed to my agent I would like him to meet with management. Make that a priority and see what the future holds.”

He’s played 22 seasons in the NHL, four with the New York Islanders, four with Ottawa and the last 14 in Boston. The 6-foot-9 native of Slovakia was an all-star seven times and won the Norris Trophy for the NHL’s best defenseman in 2008-09. He was the captain of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup winning team. He’s certain to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

COACH BRUCE Cassidy still has the Tampa Bay Lightning on his mind.

It’s not regret or internal second-guessing. Not all of it anyway. In two of the last three seasons, the Bruins have played Tampa Bay in the playoffs. They’ve won two games, lost eight times and had their season ended in 2018 and 2020.

With the NHL playoff format stressing divisional matchups, the Bruins are likely to face their Atlantic Division rivals in future postseasons.

“I think we feel we’re a really good team, too, and Tampa just happens to be right beside us in our division. If you look over the past three years of the last regular season teams that have had the most success, I’m sure we’re each in the top three,” Cassidy said. “That’s a bit of tough luck being right beside them in the division, but that’s the hand we’re dealt. … Do we have to do things better? Yes. Obviously, they’ve had our number, that’s a fact. We can’t hide that.“

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