- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Peter Bondra knows exactly what he wants from the rest of his career: to stay put.

“I haven’t asked to be traded,” the Washington Capitals left wing said. “I’m very happy here, especially since Glen [Hanlon] became our coach. We have a lot of young players, and I’m learning along with them in practice. It has been a tough season, but I’m still having fun.”

And despite turning 36 last Saturday, he still is one of the NHL’s fastest skaters and still delivers one of the hardest shots in the league.

Those abilities and Bondra’s solid performance this season — along with the Caps’ desire to shed large salaries like Bondra’s $4.5million before the lockout that’s expected in September — have led the club to consider trade offers. Bondra’s name most frequently has been mentioned in connection with the Ottawa Senators but also with the Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

A trade before the March 9 deadline would in part be a goodwill gesture from the Caps to one of their greatest players — a chance to win the Stanley Cup that eluded him when they were swept by the Red Wings in the 1998 finals. And if Bondra is traded, he could return to the Caps as a free agent because his contract expires after this season.

Still, Bondra isn’t looking for the easy way out of the Southeast Division basement in which the Caps have resided almost all season.

“Of course I want to win the Stanley Cup, but I want to win it in Washington,” said Bondra, one of just four active 400-goal scorers still with his original club.

Bondra joined the Caps as an eighth-round pick 14 years ago with no great hopes and an English vocabulary limited to “pizza” and “Coke.”

“I hadn’t thought much about the NHL,” recalled Bondra, who blossomed under the tutelage of Czech Michal Pivonka. “I was hoping to play for a year or two and then go home.”

Bondra quickly exceeded his modest expectations, becoming one of the league’s top scorers and the cornerstone of the Caps for most of the past decade. His 470 career goals put Bondra behind only Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan during that stretch. Bondra holds Caps records for points, goals, power-play goals, game-winning goals, short-handed goals and hat tricks.

Yesterday, Bondra was named a member of the Caps’ all-time team along with forwards Mike Gartner and Dale Hunter, defensemen Rod Langway and Calle Johannson and goalie Olie Kolzig. Gartner and Langway are Hall of Famers.

Of that group, only Kolzig, who’s also on the block, can join Bondra in never having played for another team. After nearly 14 years, Washington is home to Bondra and his family, which includes wife Luba, daughter Petra and sons Nicholas and David, the latter a standout 11-year-old for the Little Caps.

“Washington is home,” said Bondra, shaking his head when asked whether he could imagine moving back to Slovakia, which he has represented in an Olympics, a World Cup and two world championships. “My children haven’t lived anywhere else. We love it here.”

Whatever the future holds, Bondra for now remains an important part of the Caps, who are suffering through their worst season in 22 years. Bondra ranks fourth in the NHL this season in power-play goals with 11. He’s just one goal from a 13th straight year with at least 20. Only Robert Lang has scored more goals for the Caps this season, and only Lang and Sergei Gonchar have more points than Bondra’s 32.

Although his offensive numbers are down — along with those of almost every other NHL scorer — Bondra’s game is as well-rounded as it has ever been. He has become one of the Capitals’ better penalty killers, using his speed and long reach to harass opponents.

“We have a lot of trust in Peter as a penalty-killer,” Hanlon said. “He has a little edge to his game that people don’t realize.”

And the Caps, for all their troubles, have a huge edge when Bondra is firing those slap shots. The Caps are 9-4-1 when he scores this season, 8-24-3-1 when he doesn’t and 0-3-1-1 when he’s out of the lineup because of injuries.

If Bondra remains healthy and plays in each of the final 27 games, he will establish one more Caps record, passing Johansson’s mark of 983 games. For all his accomplishments, the ever-humble Bondra laughed off the suggestion he one day could be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But, then, stardom never has been his goal, just a consequence of his love of the sport.

“Peter’s a thoroughbred,” Hanlon said. “He just loves to play. He’ll never lose that. The game is important to Peter. You can’t get him off the ice.”

Notes — As expected, defenseman Josef Boumedienne was recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League, where he was sent to stay in game shape during the All-Star break. Neither Boumedienne nor Lang, who played in Sunday’s All-Star Game, skated during last night’s practice at Laurel Ice Gardens. However, goalie Sebastien Charpentier, out since Nov. 15 with an arthritic hip, and left wing Brian Willsie, out since Dec. 27 with a concussion, both returned to the ice. The Caps still likely will recall either Maxime Ouellet or Rastislav Stana to back up Kolzig before they return to action Thursday at Carolina.

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