Zdeno Chara confirmed on Instagram on Wednesday afternoon that he is leaving the Boston Bruins, who he has played for over the past 14 years. The Washington Capitals later announced they had signed the defenseman to a one-year, $795,000 contract.
"My family and I have been so fortunate to call the great city of Boston our home for over 14 years," he wrote. "Recently, The Boston Bruins have informed me that they plan to move forward with their many younger and talented players and I respect their decision. Unfortunately, my time as the proud Captain of the Bruins has come to an end."
He went on to thank the fans, Bruins staff and the Jacobs family, the team's owners.
"To all of my teammates throughout the years in Boston, I am so lucky to have a lifetime of memories that I will never forget," he added. "From the highest highs to the lowest lows, we were always a team, we were always there for each other and those bonds and friendships will never be forgotten."
"I will always be a Bruin," he said, in closing. "I will always love Boston."
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News had reported around 3:30 p.m. that Chara was signing with the Washington Capitals.
The Capitals made the signing official around 4 p.m. on their Twitter account, saying they had signed "Big Z" to a one-year deal.
"We are extremely pleased to have Zdeno join the Capitals organization," General Manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. "We feel his experience and leadership will strengthen our blueline and our team."
The towering 6'9" defenseman was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1996, and signed with the Bruins in 2006. He was named a captain the following season, a role he filled for his entire stint with the team.
He won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, won the Norris Trophy in 2009 as the NHL's top defenseman and played in multiple NHL All-Star Games.
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"Definitely surprised to hear it," said Bruins fan Sam Brown. "Obviously, Big Z was here for a while, was part of our Stanley Cup team, we've been competitive with him. Sorry to see him go, really surprised to hear that the team didn't want him."
"I think it's super sad," said Bruins fan Jillian Blumberg. "He's a staple to the North End, he's a great guy, everyone knows him, he always says 'Hi' to everyone. But best of luck. He did great things for us."
Last year, the 43-year-old from Slovakia scored five goals and had nine assists. For his career, he played in over 1,500 games, scoring 205 goals and assisting on 451 more. He ranks third among defensemen in scoring in Bruins history, behind only Hall of Famers Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr.
"I wouldn't say it's a blow to the team," said longtime fan and Bruins blogger Mark Allred. "I would say it's a blow to the fan base. Chara has just been a mainstay in the Bruins organization."
Allred, who runs the Black N Gold hockey podcast, says the Bruins are likely thinking about the team's future, giving younger players more time on the ice.
"It's just giving these guys, these kids, more trust from Bruce Cassidy and the coaching staff," said Allred.
"The Bruins were either cheap or incompetent, and you don't want to be either," said DJ Bean of NBC Sports Boston.
Bean says the team's decision doesn't make sense, leaving a big hole in the defense.
"On a team this shallow, Chara would actually have done a lot for this team," said Bean. "It is a blow any way you slice it."