Chara/By S. Bradley

What exactly is a 6-foot-9, 34-year-old, perennial All-Star defenseman worth on the open market?

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli decided in October that he didn’t want to wait until July 2011 to find out.

With captain Zdeno Chara looking ahead to possibly reaching unrestricted free agency at the end of his five-year contract signed July 1, 2006, Chiarelli negotiated with the blueliner’s representatives throughout the summer and hammered out a deal just in time for the start of the 2010-11 season Oct. 9.

Chara signed for seven years at an annual salary-cap hit of nearly $7 million.

Although he never gave the Bruins an ultimatum, it was obvious the regimented defenseman wanted to get a deal done before the start of the season so he could then focus all his energies on playing.

“Well, obviously the commitment I have and obviously I feel towards the Bruins [organization],” said Chara about his decision to re-sign after the Bruins lost their season-opener to Phoenix in Prague. “Since I arrived in Boston, you know with Peter that was my goal, to establish this team and become contenders. Obviously, I want to be a big part of it. You know, it’s a very solid organization. I’m very proud to be a Bruin. I feel very comfortable around the whole team, coaching staff, obviously management and players. I’m very proud to be a Bruin and obviously my first priority and goal was to stay in Boston, so I’m thankful to the Jacobs family, obviously Peter, [president] Cam [Neely] and all the players.”

Chara had a down season in 2009-10 after his career-year of the previous campaign. Although some questioned signing a player of Chara’s ilk — playing a game based around physicality and agility — up until the age of 40, the only way to look at the deal would be to say: what would the Bruins’ defense corps look like without Chara, next season or beyond? Franchise defensemen do not grow on trees and are hard to get ones hands on without an extremely high draft pick and/or some luck.

Chara not only produces at both ends of the rink at a high level, but makes the defensemen around him better. When you’re a team that’s consistently ranked at or near the top of the league in goals against, you obviously have more going for you than great goaltending and a strong system.

By getting the Chara deal done, the Bruins made sure the foundation of their defense house has been poured through the majority of the next decade.