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Canadian Press
7/1/2006 4:16:15 PM

BOSTON (CP) - The Boston Bruins signed defenceman Zdeno Chara to a $37.5-million US, five-year contract Saturday, locking up the league's marquee unrestricted free agent.

The hulking six-foot-nine Slovakia native will be paid $7.5 million per season. Chara set career highs last season with the Ottawa Senators, recording 16 goals and 43 points in 71 games.

"Zdeno is one of the premier defencemen in the National Hockey League and we are thrilled that he will be in a Boston uniform for the next five years," Bruins interim GM Jeff Gorton said in a release.

"He is a big reason why Ottawa allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season and that is one area that we were committed to improving on our team.

"We also feel that he will serve as a tremendous example to the number of young defencemen we have on our roster."

Chara, 29, is entering his ninth NHL season. He spent parts of four seasons with the New York Islanders after they selected him with the 56th overall pick of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

Chara was traded to Ottawa with Bill Muckalt and New York's 2001 first-round draft pick (Jason Spezza, second overall) for Alexei Yashin on June 23, 2001.

Chara was named a first team NHL all-star and a Norris Trophy finalist in 2003-04 and was a second team all-star and finished fourth in the Norris Trophy balloting in 2005-06.

Over his career, Chara has registered 57 goals and 118 assists for 175 points and 901 penalty minutes in 530 regular season games.

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Boston is suddenly looking okay this year. Chara and Savard?

There's also word of Shanny possibly being on the way.
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