D | 6' 9" | 250 lb | Age: 43 | Boston Bruins
Any NHL forward who has ventured into the Boston Bruins' zone during the past decade to try and set up in front of the net or retrieve a loose puck in a corner has quickly become acquainted with the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Chara.
Known as "Big Z," Chara has cast a huge shadow of accomplishment over the NHL since his arrival as a third-round selection (No. 56) by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Draft.
The feats of the Bruins captain have been well documented. He is the recipient of the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL in 2009, and won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, becoming only the second European born-and-trained captain to lift the Cup, after Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, and the first from a country behind the Iron Curtain (Czechoslovakia). Chara was also a flag bearer for Slovakia during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
A three-time NHL First-Team All-Star, Chara holds the record for hardest shot at the All-Star Skills Competition (108.8 mph, in 2012).
Chara made the move from European hockey to Prince George of the Western Hockey League in 1996 and split time during the 1997-98 season with Kentucky of the American Hockey League and the Islanders. After four seasons with the Islanders, he was traded to the Ottawa Senators on June 23, 2001.
Chara's game continued to evolve in Ottawa, and in 2003 he played in his first NHL All-Star Game. His point totals rose in each of his four seasons with the Senators (23, 39, 41, 43), but Ottawa decided it couldn't afford to keep both Chara and Wade Redden, and in the summer of 2006, they re-signed Redden and let Chara become a free agent.
The Bruins quickly signed Chara to a five-year contract on July 1, 2006, and named him captain that October.
Three years later, Chara won the Norris Trophy, solidifying his status among the NHL's elite defensemen.
In 2010-11, Chara led the NHL in plus-minus rating (plus-33) and finished with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists), helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972. His plus-16 rating during the postseason was also a League-high.
Chara had his best offensive season in 2011-12 with 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists). In 2013-14, he scored 17 goals and finished with 40 points and a plus-25 rating, earning a berth on the First All-Star Team for the third time in his career.
He has continued to be effective into his early 40s, taking a regular shift while helping to mentor the next generation of Boston defensemen, including Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy.
NOTES & TRANSACTIONS
AHL All-Rookie Team (1998)
NHL First All-Star Team (2004, 2009, 2014)
NHL Second All-Star Team (2006, 2008, 2011, 2012)
Played in NHL All-Star Game (2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012)
Traded to Ottawa by NY Islanders with Bill Muckalt and NY Islanders' 1st round pick (Jason Spezza) in 2001 NHL Draft for Alexei Yashin, June 23, 2001.
Signed as a free agent by Farjestad (Sweden), September 24, 2004.
Signed as a free agent by Boston, July 1, 2006.
Signed as a free agent by Lev Praha (KHL), October 2, 2012.