Peter Bondra

Date of Last Contract: February 1, 2001

Signed Through: 2004-2005 Season



Caps Keep Bondra in the Fold

By Dave Fay
The Washington Times
Friday, February 2, 2001

Peter Bondra, who is closing in on the Washington Capitals' offensive records he already doesn't own, signed a new contract yesterday, ending months of speculation about where he would play next season.

The wing signed a four-year deal that begins when his current contract expires at the end of June. It means he will be here for at least two more seasons, with two additional years at the club's option. His pay will average $4.5 million a season, continuing his status as the highest paid Cap in history. He is making $3,775,000 this season.

In what was strictly a coincidence, the league contacted club officials during last night's 5-4 win over Toronto and offered to put Bondra on the World team All-Star roster as an injury replacement. But he declined, saying he already had made arrangements to take his family to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Had he accepted, it would have been his sixth All-Star appearance.

The contract news was stunning, even after it was leaked. There had been rumors concerning the forward since he first approached the team early last summer, asking about the possibility of a trade. Bondra referred to the request as ``purely a business decision.'' He asked to be moved because he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and could go wherever he wanted, to whomever bid the most.

But in this day of skyrocketing salaries, settling for what he did speaks more about his desire to stay in this area where, he said, he grew up and where he wants to raise his children.

"I'm looking forward to having more success with the team, especially winning a Stanley Cup here -- that's our goal, my goal and my dream,'' Bondra said.

Bondra made it very tough for the Caps to trade him. He had led the team offensively since the season started, and after his 16th hat trick last night had 30 goals and 55 points, 13 of the goals on the power play. He is playing the best all-around hockey of his career, something no one disputes.

"It wasn't a hard decision at all when [general manager George McPhee] and my agent started talking about it,'' Bondra said, referring to a December decision by all concerned parties to reopen stalled talks. ``I said, `Let's do it,' and I'm happy here for my kids. I've grown up here as well and maybe I'll retire here as well, who knows.''

Bondra joined the Caps in 1990 after he was discovered in the backwoods of what was then Czechoslovakia by the late Jack Button, acting on a tip that there was a gem out there waiting to be found. He was perhaps the greatest find of Button's lengthy career.

Bondra has led the NHL in goal-scoring outright once (in 1995, with 34 in the lockout-shortened season) and tied for the goal-scoring lead in 1997-98 when he had 52. He also scored 52 goals in the 1995-96 season.

His best season before this may have been 1997-98, when he had 52 goals and 78 points, 11 power-play goals and a league-leading 13 game-winners.

"I started something here, for the past 11 years, and I want to finish it and that means a [Stanley] Cup,'' Bondra said, with team owners Ted Leonsis, Jon Ledecky and Dick Patrick looking on. ``It wasn't a hard decision at all. I mean, I can't imagine myself being anywhere else.''

Bondra acknowledged that perhaps he had perhaps he had been hasty in asking the club to trade him -- a request that may have been made before all the ramifications were thoroughly thought out, such as where he might end up, school for the children, friends he made over the years.

"Obviously, I created the situation, but I learned from that,'' he said. ``It was right for me to push [his performance] to show myself first of all and my teammates and get support from the coach back, work hard, come through and end up rewarded.''

Bondra conceded he was nervous playing last night under the new contract, which most of his teammates weren't even aware of during the game.

"I was so nervous,'' he said. ``I remember my first game here, I was maybe a little bit more nervous, enough to have butterflies in my stomach. Obviously, you want to win, you want everything to go right.''

It did.