What if Chara signed elsewhere?

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

No man in franchise history has ever worn a size XXXXXXL blue-and-white jersey with the fabled Maple Leaf on the chest, but that might have changed had management been able to woo towering Zdeno Chara to Toronto almost two years ago.

Imagine, for a moment, if the hulking 6-foot-9, 253-pound behemoth had given in to the Maple Leafs free agent overtures back on July 1, 2006 and inked a multi-year deal with Toronto, the hated provincial rival of his former Ottawa Senators team.

There would have been no need to sign highly-scrutinized defenceman Pavel Kubina to a whopping four-year, $20-million US deal.

Or, for that matter, to lock up blue-liner Hal Gill, now a Pittsburgh Penguin, to a three-year, $6.25-million pact.

You know how that story ended up, Leaf fans.

To be fair, then-general manager John Ferguson made a strong pitch to snap up Chara in free agency. It was only after Chara agreed to an eye-popping five-year, $37.5-million contract with the Bruins that the Leafs snapped up Kubina and Gill.

Asked yesterday what life as a Leaf might have been like, Chara merely shrugged his huge shoulders.

"There were more than a handful of teams involved (in the bidding)," Chara recalled of his free-agent year. "Really, everything happened very quickly.

"You have to move forward and put all that stuff behind you. Boston is where I wanted to be."

If the Leafs, in hindsight, are frustrated at the way things played out, think of how badly the Sens would like to do things all over again.

Because of salary cap restrictions the Sens needed to decide which top blue liner to keep: Chara or slick puck-mover Wade Redden.

They chose Redden. Less than two seasons later, they were trying to move him at the trade deadline only to see him refuse to waive his no-trade clause.

The fact that the Sens were attempting to deal Redden is, in itself, a subtle admission that they let the wrong guy go.

That guy in question is Chara, who, after a trying first season with the Bruins, has put himself into the Norris Trophy conversation in 2007-08. Entering play last night, he was among the league leaders in defencemen scoring with 46 points, was a respectable plus-10 and was captaining his Bruins toward a playoff berth.

"There is still a lot of work to do," he said after the Bruins lost 8-2 to the Leafs last night.


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