- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

The Peter Bondra rumor mill stopped churning last night.
The Washington Capitals yesterday took care of their most pressing problem, re-signing Bondra and extending the wing's contract with the Caps for at least two and possibly four years beyond the current deal that expires June 30.
General manager George McPhee confirmed the deal had taken place, making sure the wing would be in the fold for what the Caps hope is a long playoff run.
The deal ends months of speculation over what would happen to the prolific Washington scoring machine, who last summer approached management and asked to be traded. The Caps made inquiries around the league to see what the 31-year-old would bring and even had a deal worked out with Montreal last fall that fell through.
Bondra, who has played for the Caps since 1990, has said repeatedly that his request was nothing more than a business deal. The wing would have become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and was hoping to get a deal worked out last summer to a team that would negotiate on the basis of what he would have earned on the open market.
His new deal with the Caps will pay him an average of about $4.5 million a season. The contract calls for him to be a Cap for at least two more seasons, with the club having options for each of two seasons beyond that. Bondra is scheduled to make $3.75 million this season.
McPhee said he was approached in December about re-signing Bondra, and work began on a new deal then. It was at that time that it became very apparent that Bondra's worth to the club was rapidly growing he was leading the team in goals (27) and points (52), his 12 power play goals were twice as many as any other two Caps, he was plus-9 defensively, and he had a team-high seven game-winning goals.
Bondra long has been one of the most popular players in franchise history and always has returned the favor. He has never been known to refuse an autograph request, willingly poses for pictures with fans and is among the first in line to donate an autographed stick to a charity.
McPhee said he asked in December if the club had an interest in retaining Bondra "and we certainly did, and we did what we think is a reasonable deal to extend his career here."
Several clubs had made inquires about the player. Besides Montreal, they included Phoenix, Dallas and Chicago in the Western Conference and the New York Islanders in the East. The Caps initially had been searching for a younger established player with potential plus a reasonable draft pick or prospects considered to have NHL potential and draft picks, or some combination thereof.
The first offerings were laughable as the Caps got off to their traditional poor start. Washington then was offered a few established stars who toted a sizable amount of baggage, including outlandish contracts. McPhee and team ownership held their ground.
"He's playing the best hockey of his career," McPhee said last night, "and he's a better player now than I think he was at any point in his career. He knows how to play defensively now and knows how to play within our system, and he still produces. I think there was some concern in his mind that he couldn't produce in this system, but I think he realizes how that he certainly can. He's a player who plays in all situations now he plays the point on the power play, he kills penalties, plays 4-on-4 and we obviously think he has a lot of productivity left in him for the future."
Coincidentally, Bondra last night was offered a chance to play as an injury replacement in Sunday's All-Star Game. But he turned down the opportunity because of a family commitment.
Twice Bondra has scored 52 goals in a season, and his 34 goals in the 48-game lockout-shortened 1995 season led the league.
This season Bondra is playing the best all-around hockey of his career by a wide margin. This comes with him making every effort to fill any open spot he is asked to fill by coach Ron Wilson, playing a good deal of the season on the left side instead of the right. He is one of only three Caps Steve Konowalchuk and Adam Oates are the others to play in all 53 games leading up to the All-Star break.
Bondra's all-time career standings with the Caps, before last night's game: first in shorthanded goals (27), first in game-winning goals (56), first in hat tricks (15), second in total goals (364, 33 behind leader Mike Gartner), second in power play goals (89, nine behind Gartner), second in points (633, 162 behind Gartner).

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