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Bruins, Chara agree to 7-year contract extension

by Shawn P. Roarke
PRAGUE -- There certainly has been some magic in this city for the Boston Bruins -- at least when it comes to finalizing contracts.

In the course of 24 hours, the Bruins have signed two of their most important players to new long-term deals.

Saturday, it was Zdeno Chara's turn as the captain signed a seven-year extension that will carry him through the 2016-17 season. The day before, it was young center Patrice Bergeron signing on the dotted line, inking a three-year extension.

"These are two very important pieces to our team," GM Peter Chiarelli said Saturday night, just minutes after his team dropped a 5-2 decision to Phoenix in the opening game of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Game series here. "There's uncertainty as the season progresses and (the players) get closer to free market. So it was important to get this done."

Certainly, an argument can be made that nobody on the Bruins is more important than the 33-year-old Chara, the team's captain.

Chara is in his fifth season with the Bruins after signing as a free agent in 2006. He was named captain of the team upon his arrival and has served in that capacity ever since.

In 2009, he won the first Norris Trophy of his career -- in his third nomination for the award -- by posting 19 goals, 31 assists and 95 penalty minutes in 80 games.

The Bruins won the Eastern Conference regular-season title that season, but were upset by Carolina in the second round of the playoffs.

Last season, Chara had 44 points and a plus-13 rating, the best on the team.

"He's been a big part of our team," Chiarelli said. "He embodies a lot of what we stand for. He has an incredible desire to win and is probably the hardest worker I have seen -- on and off the ice."

So it's of little surprise that Chiarelli wanted to get Chara in the fold, but there were concerns that it might not happen when Boston left for Europe without a deal in hand for their franchise player.

But the GM was confident he could get things done at some point because he was willing to do what it took to make it happen and, just as importantly, Chara wanted to stay in Boston.

"I'm very proud to be a Bruin," Chara said after the game. "My first goal and priority was to stay in Boston."

Aside from the fact that he has a comfort level in the city after five years, Chara says he wanted to continue the mission he began when he left Ottawa as a free agent to come to Boston.

"As soon as I arrived in Boston with Peter (Chiarelli), it was my goal to establish this team and become a contender. I want to continue to be a part of that," he said.

Now, Chara could easily be a part of that process until he turns 40 in the final year of the deal.

Yet, the fact that Chara could be among the oldest players in the League when he reaches the conclusion of this extension never really entered into Chiarelli's thinking.

The GM believes that Chara works so hard, takes such good care of himself and is so skilled on the ice that chronological age does not have to be a paramount concern.

"He can probably play after this deal is done," Chiarelli said.

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