Zdeno Chara
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Future Hall of Famer returns to the organization that drafted him 25 years ago. 

On Saturday, the New York Islanders signed a 44-year-old defenseman to a one-year contract.

If the nameplate on the locker didn’t read CHARA, fans might have questions about signing a player that age.

Chara was originally drafted by the Islanders in the third round (56th overall) of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

Mathew Barzal was born in 1997.

We get it. Chara’s old. But there’s still some gas in the tank. Last year with Washington, Chara played well enough to show he’s still a valuable third-pair defenseman. And that’s where the Islanders see him contributing in the coming season.

Back where it started

Chara played in parts of four seasons for the Islanders until the infamous trade, made by then-GM Mike Milbury, that sent a young Chara, Bill Muckalt and first-round pick in the 2001 draft to Ottawa for forward Alexei Yashin.

That first round pick would turn into Jason Spezza, the No. 2 overall pick in 2001.

Chara eventually landed in Boston, where he would serve as the Bruins’ captain from the 2006-07 season until the 2019-20 campaign.

Chara wore the C on his chest in Boston for 1,023 games. He won a Norris Trophy in Boston (2008-09) and helped Boston win a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

In 2021-22, he returns to the Islanders to run it back where it all started.


Tab has written about MLB, the NHL and the NFL for more than a decade for publications including The Fourth Period, Bleacher Report and La Vida Baseball. He is the author of two books about the Chicago Blackhawks and has been credentialed for the MLB All-Star Game and postseason and multiple Stanley Cup Finals. He is the co-host of the Line Drive Radio podcast.