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The Bondra Trade

Posted on Thursday 19 February 2004

The Caps, especially the owner and GM, are being taken to task by fans and media alike over having traded Peter Bondra to Ottawa yesterday. I think the criticism is unfair. Not that I don’t like Bondra or what he brought to Washington, especially off the ice, but there’s a piece of the story missing.

Look at what’s happened with the Caps this year: performed terribly while sporting one of the highest payrolls in the league, and while bleeding cash. The team has traded two beloved players (Konowalchuk, who was captain at the time, and Bondra) and their marquee player, Jagr. Leonsis has been talking since the end of last season about the end of the labor agreement between the league and the players, and recently his tone has turned foreboding.

Leonsis has been up front that the Jagr trade was strictly a money deal, although at least the team got somebody who can play well every day in return. Kono was traded to a contender and the Caps got a decent younger player, Battaglia, who’s been playing regularly. Bondra was traded to the Senators for a prospect who’s played just one NHL game and a draft choice; that seems like a ridiculously low price for such a wonderful player and member of the Washington community like Peter Bondra. After all, Leonsis pointed out last night that most of Bondra’s salary has already been paid this year, so they’re not saving much money. And the player they got in return has already been assigned to the minors and likely won’t contribute to the team this year.

No, I think Leonsis and McPhee are doing Peter a favor by giving him a chance to win a Stanley Cup near the end of his career. He’s 36 and clearly has long had a goal to win a Cup. I’m sure his dream was to win a cup for the city where he “grew up,” as he describes it. But it became clear last fall that it wasn’t going to happen here in Washington this season or next, even without the uncertainly about next season. So Peter, like all of us, has to adjust his dreams a bit. There’s no doubt that winning a Cup for Washington was at the top of his hockey list, but winning a Cup someplace must be second on that list.

My problem is that I’m not sure who to root for when the Sens come to town on March 8th, which is coincidentally the night before the trading deadline.

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