This year, the Islanders season is coming to a close after the final regular season game. That's the first time that has happened since 2018 so it feels a little bit funny after their success over the past three seasons to think that tonight is really the end.
There's a ton of question marks about what they do with their pending UFA and RFA players, one of those UFA's being Zdeno Chara. Will Chara come back, sign elsewhere or retire at the end of this year?
theThe Islanders brought in Big Z for veteran depth before the season started. He was likely put in too big of a role and struggled early on in the season. Through 71 games played he's averaged 18:43 with 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists). He got stronger as they year went on but obviously, this isn't the Zdeno Chara that everyone will remember when looking back on his 20+ year career.
In March, Chara turned 45 years old so I think it's fair to ask the question. Will this be it for Zdeno Chara after the 2022 season? Jaromir Jagr played until he was 45, Johnny Bower 45, Chris Chelios 48, and Gordie Howe 52. Chara is trying to go into rare company of a 46+-year-old playing in the NHL but if anyone can, it's someone of the skillset of Zdeno.
For the Islanders, I'm not sure they bring him back for a second year of this reunion. They could get younger on the blue and with Andy Greene (39) and Zdeno Chara (45) becoming free agents at the same time it feels like the perfect time to do just that.
Robin Salo is knocking on the door for NHL playing time and they have the cap space to acquire someone either via free agency or a trade. So no, this doesn't exactly answer what Zdeno Chara will do after the season but I think he's the only one who truly knows. If tonight is his final game in the NHL, well we've witnessed greatness for the past 24 years.