Ahead of his 24th NHL season, veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara is set to return to the club where he started as he signed a one-year contract with the New York Islanders. The club announced the deal Saturday morning, although they did not disclose the financial terms, according to US media reports.
Last year, the 44-year-old played for the Washington Capitals.
"It's kind of a full circle. Who would know this would work out the way it did?" Chara said on Saturday, talking about the organisation that drafted him in 1996. "I'm very honoured and humbled to be an Islander again. The organization has been through some transitions over the last 20 years, but we can all see the progress and the positivity the team has."
Last season, Chara, 44, played 55 games for the Washington Capitals, scoring two goals and adding eight assists. He signed a one-year deal with Washington. Chara, an unrestricted free agent, has signed his fourth one-year contract in a row.
On Saturday, Chara shared a photo he shot while wearing a white Islanders jersey during his time there on his Instagram account (1997-2001). His blue sweater hung on a door frame in the backdrop, the alternative captain's "A" visible.
“I had to get some dust off them, but sure they still looking good!” Chara wrote.
After one season with the WHL's Prince George Cougars, the Islanders drafted Chara in the third round (56th overall) in 1996, giving him his NHL debut. The newcomer from North America was viewed as a curiosity, too tall and ungainly to have an effect beyond his sheer power.
From 1997 to 2001, he played 231 games with them before GM Mike Milbury traded him, winger Bill Muckalt, and a first-round selection that became centre Jason Spezza to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for centre Alexei Yashin, a trade that is still remembered by Islanders fans.