PRAGUE -- This was a homecoming for Zdeno Chara. Turns out, it was a very lucrative return to the city where Big Z really got his hockey career kickstarted as a teenager, playing for Sparta Praha in the spring of '96.
Chara, the 33-year-old Bruins' captain, today finalized a long-term contract extension with the Bruins, as reportered first on boston.com early this morning. Some two hours later, the club made the deal public, announcing that Chara signed a seven-year extension, through the 2017-'18 season.
The dollar amount was not released by the Bruins, but Chara will earn a total $45.5 million over the seven years. At that payout, he will earn $1 million less than the $7.5 million a year he has made since joining the Bruins in July 2006.
''Like I said [Friday], not an easy negotiation, for many reasons,'' said his Wellesley-based agent, Matt Keator. ''So many factors went into it...length of term, money, of course...and then everything that's happening around the league with long-term deals and the chance of another work stoppage in two years. But this will make Zee very happy.
''He's said all along Boston is the only place he wants to be, he's committed to bringing the Cup to Boston, and he's going to be around for a very long time in hopes of making that happen.''
In terms of a cap hit, the Bruins will be charged $6.5 million a season to keep Chara on the books, beginning in Oct. 2011.
Given that Chara will be 41 years old when the deal expires, it's also very likely that, similar to the seven-year contract extension Marc Savard signed during last season, Chara's annual pay will diminish over the last couple of years of the deal. What matters most in terms of payroll calculations in the new NHL is the deal's cap hit.
If his deal follows the Savard model, Chara could earn, say, 80 percent of the $45.5 million over the first five years. It's possible that he'll continue to be paid $7.5 million for the first five years, then collect the residual $7 million over the final two seasons.
Born in neighboring Slovakia, and clearly enjoying his trip here with the Bruins, who today opened their season aagaint the Coyotes here at O2 arena, Chara will be under contract with the Bruins for a total of eight more years.
The deal comes one day after the Bruins tied up center Patrice Bergeron on a new deal worth three years/$15 million.