‘FULL CIRCLE’: Zdeno Chara returns to Islanders two decades later – Toronto Sun

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Veteran defenceman Zdeno Chara is returning to the Islanders on a one-year contract, the team that drafted him in 1996.
Veteran defenceman Zdeno Chara is returning to the Islanders on a one-year contract, the team that drafted him in 1996. Photo by Scott Taetsch /USA TODAY Sports / Files

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Defenceman Zdeno Chara will return for a 24th NHL season in 2021-22, agreeing to terms Saturday on a one-year deal with the New York Islanders.

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The 44-year-old veteran of 1,608 games started his career with the Islanders, who drafted him in the third round in 1996.

“Well, it’s kind of a full circle,” Chara told reporters Saturday. “… I’m certainly very honoUred and humbled to be an Islander again.”

A six-time NHL All-Star, Chara won the 2008-09 Norris Trophy and the 2011 Stanley Cup during his 14-year run as a captain of the Boston Bruins from 2006-20.

He played last season with the Washington Capitals, contributing two goals and eight assists in 55 games.

Chara has 666 career points (207 goals, 459 assists) and 2,000 penalty minutes in 1,608 games with the Islanders (1997-2001), Ottawa Senators (2001-06), Bruins and Capitals. His plus/minus rating of plus-293 ranks No. 1 among all active NHL players.

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He also has 70 points (18 goals, 52 assists) in 200 playoff games. The 6-foot-9 Slovakia native was just the second European-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup, joining Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.

Chara joins an Islanders squad that reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.

“I love the game. I have passion for the game and believe that I can still play,” he said. “Those are the things you need. I think you don’t need to say much besides having love for the game and having passion for it and wanting to win.”

Terms of the contract with the Islanders were not disclosed. Chara said other teams showed interest in him, but he ultimately decided to remain close to his family’s home in Boston.

“Discussions with the family has been going on probably the whole summer,” he said. “That was important to me that my family would feel comfortable and ready for me to play another and be away from them. But at the same, not too far.”

The Islanders open the 2021-22 regular season Oct. 14 on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes.

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