- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 3, 2005

The Washington Capitals offered forward Peter Bondra, who will be 38 halfway through the season, a one-year contract for $1.5million with enough incentives to push that figure to almost $2million.

Bondra, it should be pointed out, is jobless. The wing’s last employer, the Ottawa Senators, declined to pick up his option for another year of service.

The Atlanta Thrashers recently extended an offer but pulled it back when Bondra and his agent, Rich Winter of Edmonton, ignored a deadline for responding.

Bondra, according to published reports, made a counterproposal to Washington — a two-year, $4.5million contract with incentives and a no-trade clause.

Somebody is not getting the message here. The Capitals are in a rebuilding mode, concentrating on young skillful players. They are trying to put together the team of the future because experience has taught them that high-priced, underachieving players are not the way to go, resulting in a mass salary dump. Bondra should know; he was part of it when he was shuffled off to the Senators.

This is not taking anything away from the Peter Bondra who thrilled thousands of fans at Capital Centre and MCI Center for the better part of 13 seasons, scoring hundreds of goals, then acting like a rambunctious little boy as he celebrated. This is not taking anything away from the Bondra who rewrote the Caps’ record book. And this is in full acknowledgment that Bondra is one of the most popular individuals to wear a Caps’ sweater.

But this is also time for reality. Either the Caps are rebuilding or they’re not. And if they are rebuilding, there is little room for a player like Bondra unless he can turn his attention to mentoring the youngsters, showing players like Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Petr Sykora how to take full advantage of their immense skills and speed.

Questions must be answered. Will Bondra willingly step aside for a younger man when he is going through one of his yearly and sometimes lengthy periods without offensive output? Will he take one for the team? Will he work harder to fit into the team chemistry, to be an easier player to match with others in the formation of lines?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, then there should be no room for him or any other player who will stand in the way of advancing the team agenda.

Even without Bondra, there already are legitimate candidates for the four wing positions on the top two lines. And there usually is a player or two who separates himself and emerges as a strong candidate to take someone’s job.

Bondra lives in the area. His children were born and raised here, and he wants this to be his permanent home. He wants to retire from the NHL as a member of the Washington Capitals, and he has been told there probably will be a spot for him in the organization if he finishes his illustrious career with the club.

Make him an offer (the original expires when a counteroffer is made) for one year at $1.5million with incentives. Attach a one-year team option with a raise if it is picked up. Give him the no-trade clause he is seeking if that’s the deal-breaker.

And if that’s not enough, there have been hints from his side at interest from four or five other clubs. Check ‘em out but do it quick. There’s not a lot of time left.

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