Zdeno Chara, the Bruins’ captain the last 14 years, signed a 0ne-year deal with the Capitals on Wednesday. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

An era has ended in Boston Bruins’ hockey.

Zdeno Chara, the club’s 14-year captain who helped break a 39-year-old Stanley Cup drought, is leaving the Bruins. He has signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals – the Bruins’ newest East Division rival – for $795,000.

But this was never about the money. While there was not a trace bitterness in Chara’s Instagram goodbye to the city, Chara made it clear it was not entirely his decision to leave.

“My family and I have been so fortunate to call the great city of Boston our home for over 14 years,” wrote Chara. “Recently, the Boston Bruins have informed me that they plan to move forward with their many younger and talented players and I respect their decision. Unfortunately, my time as the proud Captain of the Bruins has come to an end.”

The writing had been on the wall for a while now. As dedicated an athlete to perform in this city, Chara had not been among the skaters at Warrior Ice Arena in recent weeks. And when Cam Neely was asked last week about what role the team had in mind for Chara, the team president was tellingly noncommital.

“We do want to take a look at some of these young left shot D’s that we have in our system to see if they can step up or is it the time for them to step up and see where they’re at in their development,” said Neely. “We certainly respect Zdeno and everything he’s done for the organization and what he’s accomplished as a player and what he’s done both on and off the ice here in Boston, so you know it’s really just a matter of what his desire is and how the coaching staff and we feel what our lineup should look like or could look like depending on the development of some of these young guys.”

Chara had three choices. He could have accepted a reduced role with the Bruins. He could have retired. Or he could move on to a different team that will ask more of him. Chara picked the third door.

While it was not the ending in Boston that Chara wanted, the divorce was as amicable as you could have hoped.

“Don Sweeney gets high marks … He’s was extremely communicative and respectful as he could be throughout this process. It’s been tough,” said Chara’s longtime agent, Matt Keator.

Patrice Bergeron relayed his feelings about Chara to the Herald in a text.

“For the past 14 years, Zee has been a teammate, friend, mentor and brother,” wrote Bergeron, the leading candidate to replace Chara as captain. “We have experienced so much together and it has been an absolute honor to compete alongside him all those years. I will miss him as a teammate, but we are bound together forever. Wish him, Tatiana and the kids all the best in their new adventure.”

Chara’s signing with the Bruins in the summer of 2006 was the catalyst for the club returning to prominence. On the same day, the Bruins inked Marc Savard. After a big misstep in Chara’s first year under one-year head coach Dave Lewis, Chara and the Bruins hit their stride when Claude Julien was hired on 2007.

He won the Norris Trophy in 2008-09 and, on a late spring night in June, 2011, the heavily bearded Chara let out a mountain man’s yelp as he lifted the Cup over his head in Vancouver, the first time a Bruin had done that since 1972.

The Bruins went to the finals twice more with Chara, most recently in 2019. Chara produced one of the most spine-tingling moments in the new Garden’s history when he suited up for Game 5 against St. Louis with a shattered jaw. The Bruins fell one game short of a second Cup.

Chara’s age did show up in the Bruins second-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoff bubble last summer. But it is impossible to say that the Bruins are a better team today than they were at the end of the season. Not only did they lose Torey Krug to free agency, the hole on the left side of the blue line has now become gargantuan with the loss of Chara.

While he was no longer a power-play participant, and found himself on the bench when his team needed a score, Chara was still a force on the penalty kill and when it came to protecting leads.

If the Bruins were in a different spot, then moving on from their 43-year-old captain to give some high-end draft picks a chance to play would have been a no-brainer. But now they have a left side that could feature Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Zboril (2015 first rounder) and Jeremy Lauzon (2015 second rounder), with Urho Vaakanainen (2017 first rounder) in the mix. The pedigree is there. The track record is not.

Now Chara plays for another Cup hopeful, and one the Bruins will have to play eight times in this 56-game schedule. And now, when the Capitals play the Bruins, Tom Wilson will not have to worry about Zdeno Chara anymore. A little frightening, no?

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