By Christian Arnold and Stefen Rosner
Day 1 of NHL free agency is in the books and the New York Islanders did not announce any signings after the market opened at 12 pm on Wednesday.
The Islanders are still expected to sign Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri at some point, but defensively they still have a hole to fill. Several names that could have worked for the Islanders on the blue line came off the market. Now there are still options out there, but the list is slimming.
There is one player not rushing to make a decision and could become a fallback plan for Lamoriello if need be.
Don't expect a quick decision from UFA D Zdeno Chara.
Agent Matt Keator: “Z is in Slovakia spending time with family. He is working out hard and leaving all of his options open. There is no rush on anything with him.''@TSNHockey @TheAthletic
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 27, 2021
Zdeno Chara, drafted by the Islanders back in the third round in 1996, could see his career come full circle after stops in Ottawa, Boston, and Washington along the way. But does it make sense for the Islanders and quite frankly for Chara?
NYI Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief Christian Arnold and Stefen Rosner debated the idea, with Arnold arguing for Chara to be brought in and Rosner explaining why he should not:
Arnold: Talk about a great story on top of another one. The Islanders would not only have a homecoming of sorts with Zach Parise, but having Zdeno Chara finish out his career with the team that drafted him and perhaps righting the wrong of ever dealing him away. Now it should be understood right off the bat that Chara is by no means going to be an everyday player in this scenario. His role would be as a seventh defenseman or maybe in a bind as your third pair defenseman, because he still managed to play those type of minutes in Washington last season.
What he also brings is someone who can aid on the penalty kill, which was a cornerstone of the Islanders’ success last season. In Washington, he was a key component to their PK which operated at an 84% success rate, which was fifth-best in the league. That in itself certainly has to be appealing to the Islanders, who could bring Chara in on a cheap one-year contract.
Now Chara is still deciding on his future, which also works in the Islanders’ favor since they have a lot of more pressing matters to work on. Deals for RFAs Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin have to be completed, Lou Lamoriello is working to re-sign Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri and there could be other maneuvers that are made in the offseason. That means he’ll be on the market for a while and the Islanders can always circle back to him.
Rosner: What Zdeno Chara brings at age 44 is a role that is already being filled by another veteran defenseman in Andy Greene. Greene was brought in prior to the 2019-20 NHL Trade Deadline to provide stability on the backend and signed a contract that offseason to remain with the Islanders. He signed a one-year deal this offseason to return.
The need to have two players towards the end of their NHL career seems a bit redundant for a team looking to upgrade their defense. Chara played in 55 games for the Washington Capitals last season with two goals and eight assists. He played 18:19 minutes per game, the fewest minutes he’s averaged in a season over his 23-year NHL career. He saw his defensive statistics take a hit as well, seeing a decline in blocks, hits, and takeaways per game.
Now there is an argument to be made in regards to bringing Chara in as a seventh-defenseman. The reason that Chara left the Boston Bruins organization after 14 years was because they did not see him as a starter at the NHL level anymore and he chose to go somewhere where he would be an everyday player. It’s hard to think his mindset has changed a year later.