PRAGUE — It was hard to imagine Saturday being too bad a day for the Bruins when word came down that the team had inked captain Zdeno Chara  to a seven-year contract extension that will begin following this season, the last of his current deal.
Still, that 5-2 loss sure did give the signing a run for it’s money, didn’t it? The game aside (read about it here), Saturday marked the second of two consecutive huge days for the Bruins’ future. In re-signing both Chara (seven years, $45.5 million) and center Patrice Bergeron  (three years, $15 million), the team made sure two players who wear letters other than the spoked “B” on the front of their sweaters (Bergeron himself is an alternate captain at 25 years of age) would be in the fold long term.
What does it mean financially? Put it this way: This season, with the Chara carrying a $7.5 million cap hit and Bergeron with a cap hit of $4.75 million, the Bruins are paying $12.25 million combined for the two of them. When the new deals kick in for the two players, Chara will have a $6.917 cap hit for the first six years (he makes $4 million — less than the average annual value of the rest of the deal — in salary in the last year, which since he will be over 40 is not allowed to be factored into the cap calculation), with Bergeron taking up $5 million in cap space. Combined, that’s a grand total of $11.917 million for both of the players, a savings of about $333,000 for Bergeron and Chara. Imagine the cap going up (even if it’s slightly) in the future, and the Bruins seem to have had themselves a very productive couple of days.
So how did it all come together for the players? Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, told WEEI.com on Saturday that “it was not an easy negotiation,” and that it had “lots of moving parts.” Even so, much like Bergeron said a day before, Chara said — as, to his credit, he did in the week leading up to the signing — that he believed the end result would be him staying in Boston. General manager Peter Chiarelli felt the same way, saying he was “pretty confident” before departing for Europe last week that the players would sign on the trip.
“From our perspective, these are two very, very important pieces of our team, very important individuals on and off the ice. There’s uncertainty as you see some precessions as far as trying to retain these types of players,” Chiarelli said. “As they get closer to the free agent market, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s also an extreme show of good faith when both sides can get it done now, meaning both sides wanted to get a deal done. We want Z and Bergy to be a part of the Bruins for a while, and they wanted to remain with the Bruins. It’s a typical thing. When two sides want something to happen, it usually happens.”
Any longterm deal with Chara, 33, figured to be a tough one for both sides to hammer out given that any deal that goes past a player’s 40th birthday can be complicated as a result of the new cap calculation that came about following the Ilya Kovalchuk  saga that grabbed headlines in the offseason. Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils was nixed by the league because its later years paid out little money in an attempt to lower the cap hit. Now, as a result, the above calculation applies to longterm contracts that go into a player’s 40’s.
“Obviously, Kovalchuk’s situation was a little extreme, and that maybe put the negotiations on hold for a little bit,” Chara said of the hitches that came up in negotiations. “I just knew that we would get this done and I would be a Bruin.”
That’s two top players in two days to accept deals to stay in Boston prior to hitting free agency. It could be a coincidence, but it’s more likely that the Bruins and Chiarelli are seeing a trend develop.