One-on-one with The Big Z

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Former Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara will be introduced to the Boston media at a press conference today at 11 a.m. Before leaving Ottawa yesterday, he agreed to an exclusive one-on-one interview with Sun hockey writer Bruce Garrioch. Here is an edited transcript of their discussion:

SUN: Are you disappointed things didn't work out with Ottawa?

CHARA: "Oh, yes, for sure. My first priority was to stay in Ottawa. I love the city. I love the fans. The fans here are so passionate about hockey. They care for the team and every game was sold out. I love the guys. I loved living here. I'm obviously very sad to leave. But I had to move on. It wasn't my choice. It wasn't my decision. I'm excited to go to Boston."

SUN: Did you want them to acknowledge that you were the top defenceman on the team?

CHARA: "I think they knew that, but I think for some reason they ignored that. They were saying we never gave them a number. We didn't, but all the other teams knew what my market value was. For some reason, they didn't. I signed for 20% more than what I got offered from the Sens. That's a big difference. That's just the offer I took. There was actually teams who gave me more than that. There was seven teams who offered me more than $7 million and one team who offered me more than Boston. I didn't go for the money. I just chose Boston."

SUN: Had you bought land here?

CHARA: "Yes, I was ready to settle here, build a house, raise my kids and have a family here. I wanted to stay here. I'm very disappointed. I have great respect for (owner) Eugene Melnyk. He called me (two weeks ago) and called (Keator) and we spoke for over 40 minutes. He's a great man. He's smart. He's passionate about the team. I have a lot of respect for him."

SUN: When you spoke to Melnyk did he say he couldn't go any further?

CHARA: "He told me the cap is going to be $44 million and they were going to go to the maximum. He told me they want to build a championship team and I felt that we were on the right track. We talked and it was all positive. (Melnyk) told me, there are limitations. He asked me about the team. We had a good positive conversation."

SUN: You were just disappointed when they signed Wade and they didn't come back to you?

CHARA: "I thought when that happened that I would be next to be signed."

SUN: Are you upset you weren't able to win a Stanley Cup here?

CHARA: "It's disappointing that we didn't do as well as everybody predicted. I think this team has the potential, and still has, but I'm sad we didn't win. That's not the reason I am leaving. I had to go. Now I am looking forward to a new start with another team.

SUN: When you say you had to go, why did you have to go?

CHARA: "I had to have a job and I couldn't really sit waiting (for Ottawa to call). If I kept waiting, all the offers would be off the table and there would be nobody left. They told me I had to make up my mind as quickly as possible. There were options and teams want a decision fast. I would probably be waiting for a long time if I was waiting for the Sens to call."

SUN: Did Ottawa give up on you too easily?

CHARA: "They underestimated the market value. I was willing to take less to stay in Ottawa."

SUN: When John Muckler says you should have given them a number, do you feel in hindsight that you should have given them a number?

CHARA: "Nobody was sure, but I think they should have guessed. Everybody knew what the number was going to be around, and I think they did too, but they never believed in that. Once you get to the open market the price goes up and it never goes down."

SUN: When it came down to making the decision, did you feel it was best for you to stay in the East?

CHARA: "It was a really tough decision. I chose Boston because obviously they were very straightforward and committed to me. Guys from the team, like Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and coach Dave Lewis called me ... and they talked about the plan. You could sense the whole process of changing GM's, coaches, assistant coaches and getting rid of players who didn't want to be there was a step in the right direction. You could tell they want to make a new start. I want to be part of it. It's going to be challenging because they've had a lack of leadership in the past and I am up to that challenge."

SUN: Did Peter Chiarelli play any role in negotiations? How much did his presence in Boston have to do with it?

CHARA: "Peter had nothing to do with it. He wasn't involved at all. Obviously, him being there helped and made me feel comfortable. I chose Boston because I really like the challenge. When I listened to what I heard from Boston, it was something that made a lot of sense to me. I'm not afraid to take the challenge and I think Boston is a team on the right track."

SUN: That must have been a pretty active three hours?

CHARA: "It was unbelievable. I had my cellphone and my home phone going. (Keator) had four lines at his office going. He had two extra lines put in just for that day. We knew it was going to be strong."

SUN: What made Boston stick out the most?

CHARA: "I want to lead the team. I want to be the guy who takes charge. Basically, they were out of the playoffs and they were total underdogs. You got to go with your gut and your feeling. I have to go with my heart."

SUN: I understand you went and said goodbye to everybody at the Senators' offices on June 30?

CHARA: "I knew there had been no contact in the last nine days and I knew this could be my last day. I went in the morning for a workout and I wanted to say goodbye to everybody. I'm the kind of guy who likes to look people in the eye and thank them for everything. I don't like to turn back and just walk away. That's the right thing to do. I wanted to thank the people who worked with me and I wanted to let them know I still had great memories from here. I'm not upset. I had to move on. It's business. I wanted to shake people's hands and I'm not going to run away. It was tough and emotional. I had tears in my eyes. Those people I didn't see I called. I left messages for (John) Muckler, (Roy) Mlakar and Eugene Melnyk along with all the doctors. As much as it's hard to move on, I am looking forward to going to Boston."


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