PRAGUE -- Just prior to their season-opening 5-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague on Saturday and a day after signing center Patrice Bergeron to a three-year extension, the Boston Bruins inked defenseman and team captain Zdeno Chara to a seven-year, $45.5 million extension that will keep him in black and gold through the 2017-18 season.
Despite the disappointing loss to the Coyotes, Chara was excited to continue and possibly end his career as a Bruin. Chara wants to help the Bruins be perennial Stanley Cup contenders and is thrilled he will be doing so for the next seven seasons.
"Obviously, it's the commitment that I have and that I've felt toward the Bruins since I arrive in Boston with [Bruins GM] Peter [Chiarelli]," Chara said. "It was my goal to establish this team, become contenders, and obviously I want to be a big part of it. It's a very solid organization and I'm very proud to be a Bruin. I feel very comfortable around the whole team, coaching staff, management, and players. I'm very proud to be a Bruin, and my first priority and goal was to stay in Boston. I'm very thankful to the Jacobs family, Peter, [Bruins president] Cam [Neely] and all the players."
Chara and the Bruins had been negotiating an extension to prevent him from reaching unrestricted free agency on July 1. Chara reportedly had set Saturday as a deadline to reach an agreement on an extension or else he would not negotiate during the season because it could become a distraction. But both sides found a way to get it done, and following the season opener, Chiarelli was thrilled that the 2009 Norris Trophy winner will be patrolling the Bruins' blue line until at least 2018 and that Bergeron was locked in for three years as well.
"These are two very, very important pieces of our team," Chiarelli said. "Very important individuals on and off the ice. There's uncertainty as the season progresses in trying to retain these types of players and as they get closer to the free[-agent] market you never know what is going to happen. It's an extreme show of good faith on both sides to want to get a deal done.
"We wanted Bergy and Z to be a part of the Bruins for a while and they wanted to remain part of the Bruins. When two sides want something to happen it usually happens."
Because the deal takes Chara past the 40-year-old age threshold -- he will turn 41 three months before the deal expires on June 30, 2018 -- the "Ilya Kovalchuk rule," amended in the collective bargaining agreement last month, applies.
The cap hit on Chara's contract will be $6.917 million in the first six years of the deal and $4 million in the final season under the new rule signed by the NHL and NHLPA last month, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.
Both Chiarelli and Chara acknowledged that the deal might have been done earlier if not for the Kovalchuk rule.
"Certainly it was something that we looked at when you go into the longer term you see how that ruling will impact your negotiations," Chiarelli said. "But this is a seven-year deal; it's a long time and we're happy to have Z for that long."
Chara felt the ruling may have held up the contract talks but never doubted he would remain a Bruin.
"I was very confident and obviously positive about getting this deal done before the season," Chara said. "Obviously the Kovalchuk situation was a little extreme that maybe put the negotiations on hold for a little bit but I just knew that we would get this done and I would be a Bruin."
Chiarelli agreed with his newest investment and credited both Chara and Bruins ownership for their commitment.
"We had made enough progress and we had had enough significant discussions," Chiarelli said when asked if he had any doubts the deal would get done. "At the end, both sides gave a little to get it done and I was pretty confident we'd get it done. I think it's a huge commitment from both sides, from Z's side and from the ownership side to enter this type of contract. We talked more here and we were happy to get it done."
At 6-foot-9, Chara is the tallest player in NHL history. The 33-year-old captain is starting his 13th NHL season and fifth with Boston. He's coming off a season in which he scored seven goals and led the Bruins with a plus-19 rating.
The two-time Olympian has played in 847 regular-season games, scoring 111 goals with 252 assists.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.