By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Peter Bondra plans to inform the Washington Capitals by Friday of his plans for the upcoming season, he said yesterday.
Bondra, a fan favorite during his nearly 14 seasons here and the franchise's career leader in goals and points, has been offered a one-year contract, believed to be worth $1.5 million, to return to Washington. The 37-year-old right wing also said he is weighing offers from "four or five" other teams.
Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis "called me last week and showed some interest in the team signing me," Bondra said after an informal practice with a handful of NHL players at a local rink. "Of course, I'm interested. There is a contract offer we are considering. . . .
"I'm really happy the Caps are trying to sign me. Who knows? Maybe by the end of the week, we might have a deal with the Caps. It would be nice be back, stay here, play for the Caps."
Bondra was dealt to Ottawa in February 2004 for prospect Brooks Laich and a second-round draft pick. After the season, the Senators declined to pick up the option on Bondra's contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Bondra, who has 472 goals and 825 points as a Capital, admitted he is finding it tough to turn his back on Washington, which drafted him in the eighth round in 1990 and was the only NHL club he had played for prior to being traded to Ottawa. He still makes his home in Annapolis, and two of his children began school there this week.
Bondra scrimmaged with former Capital Sergei Gonchar (now a Pittsburgh Penguin) and current ones Jeff Halpern and Andrew Cassels, among others, for about two hours yesterday morning.
"I just cannot have an offer on the table and just let it go," Bondra said. "Of course, we may have to talk more, but I can see it's possible we can make a deal.
"But there is always the possibility for me, as a free agent, to go somewhere else."
Bondra said he was disappointed by the trade to Ottawa, but that he has long since put any hard feelings behind him. General Manager George McPhee declined to comment for this story.
"It was a bit sad," Bondra said. "We had a verbal agreement with the [Capitals] that if they are going to trade me, they would give me a chance to think about it, go over it with my family. But that day, they just told me. I asked if I had a choice. They said, 'No.' But it's no bad feelings. I understand it was decision made because it had to be made. It wasn't easy to leave.
"Maybe it's not my time to come back, but maybe it is. It was 14 years here, I can't just put [that] behind me. Right now, there are teams like Philly or Jersey [and other] potential good teams, but at the same time, your heart is going to tell you something else."
Halpern, for one, hopes Bondra's heart wins out.
"You get a guy like that, he's going to score 25, 30, 35 goals," Halpern said. "It will be interesting to see if the game opens up without the red line enabling him to use his speed. I don't know what Bonzai is going to do. He's been a fan favorite for so many years. It would be great for the fans to see him come back."
Capitals Notes: Alexander Ovechkin, the team's No. 1 overall pick in 2004, will be introduced to the media tomorrow at MCI Center. Ovechkin recently agreed to terms on a three-year contract that could be worth as much as $3.9 million per year. . . . Training camp opens to the public Sept. 13. Practices are at Piney Orchard and begin at 9 a.m. the first week; admission is free. . . . Defenseman Bryan Muir, 32, signed yesterday. Acquired from Los Angeles for future considerations on Aug. 12, Muir is expected to play for the Capitals' AHL affiliate in Hershey, Pa.