Eight months ago, Caps left wing Jason Chimera didn’t look like a prime candidate for a contract extension. Coming off a career-best 20 goals in 2011-12, Chimera was snakebitten for much of the early portion of the lockout-abbreviated 2012-13 campaign. He went 27 games without finding the back of the net at the start of last season, and finished with just three goals in 47 games.
It’s testament to the 34-year-old Chimera’s work ethic and his utility that he was able to turn that situation into a two-year contract extension with the Capitals on Friday. Chimera inked the deal after practice and just prior to the team’s departure for a two-game weekend road trip to Phoenix and Denver.
“If you would have said last March that this would happen, I would have said, ‘Probably not,’ admits Chimera. “I don’t even think they would have wanted to.”
Chimera played his best hockey of 2012-13 when it mattered most, down the stretch and into the playoffs. This season, he is off to a strong start numerically with five goals and 11 points in the team’s first 16 games. That includes a career-best four-game goal-scoring streak and a career best four-point game.
He has also been reinstalled into Washington’s penalty killing scheme, and has been a key cog in the league’s No. 1 shorthanded unit thus far this season. Factor in his ebullient personality and his speed, and the total package is something the Caps decided they needed for a few more seasons.
As for Chimera, the Caps’ elder statesmen – and his son, Cale – both share a pair of goals going forward. A thousand games in the league and a Stanley Cup championship, not necessarily in that order.
“That’s all my son wants to do,” says Chimera. “He said he wants to go on the ice with me, either or. First he wants the Stanley Cup and he wants the thousand games, too. So he can be on the ice with me, either or.
“The Stanley Cup would be nice, and I think a thousand games would really be nice to top it off, for sure. Ultimately, when I say Stanley Cup, I believe this team has a chance to win and that’s why I did want to sign with these guys. When you lose with them in playoff rounds and I’d be kicking myself in the butt if they win the Stanley Cup and you’re not part of it. After you go through all these years with these guys, and you really get to know these guys: Backy, Ovi, Greenie, Brouwser, Laich, Wardo – the guys who have been around for a long time, you want to win with those guys. It’s one of those things, you grow with these kids and you see them grow and you want to be there for the long run.”
Even at 34, Chimera hasn’t shown signs of slowing down on the ice. He is still among probably the fastest five or 10 percent of all players in the NHL. Being around so many young players help keeps him young, he claims.
“It’s fun,” says Chimera, “It’s fun to play with the kids. It keeps you young. This game keeps you young. I feel better than I ever have; I don’t feel any slower than I’ve ever been. You play with you kids, you play with all these kids and they go home to play with their X-Box and I go home to parent my kids. I think it’s pretty funny the different ways you go but on the road you always seem to go out together and have meals together, so it’s a pretty unique experience.
“It’s a fun game to play. It sounds corny but it’s a dream come true. Every day you come to work, you play hockey. It couldn’t be any better and I take that very seriously for sure.”
Friday was certainly a fun day to come to work.
“Every time you sign a contract it’s a pretty cool moment,” admits Chimera. “You play a game for your job and it’s a pretty cool moment, that’s for sure.”