Tuesday, September 13, 2005

You can't go home again . . . and sometimes, you don't want to

From what I read in the last chapter of the "Will Bondra Return to Washington" saga, Peter Bondra was more enthusiastic about the prospects of playing for Atlanta than Washington. Of course, that might just be PR for the faithful in Atlanta.

But, it does put the period at the end of the sentence -- you can't go home again. Sometimes, you don't want to. In any case, it might have been a bad idea had Bondra been resigned. Why? I think a number of elements were coming together that made the veteran winger a bad fit for a team where half the guys can't buy a drink legally in the U.S.:

1. He's 37 years old (he'll be 38 in February). Frankly, I think spending seven figures for a player on the far side of 35 at this point of the new NHL era is nuts. Not all of the ramifications of the new agreement are known -- how it will play out over the next year or two. I don't think teams, especially teams like the Caps, can afford "sick money" -- high salary paid to players who aren't productive (and this pertains more to older players).

2. The Caps have a lot of wingers or guys who can play the position they need to find out about. Not all will make the team, but among Ovechkin, Semin, Sykora, Fehr, Sutherby, Gordon, Zalesak, Fleischmann, and Johansson, they might fill the wings on the top two lines and get valuable development time, which leaves Bondra . . . where?

3. The Caps are already several million over their payroll target, according to reports down here. A $1.5 million deal, plus incentives, might push the Caps closer to $30 million than they want at this stage of their rebuild, especially if the cap is lower next year.

4. In his last four full seasons, his goal scoring went 45-39-30-26. The new rules might open things up for him . . . then again, maybe not. At 37, it a considerable risk to take.

Bondra will have more developed offensive talent in Atlanta than he would have had in Washington -- Hossa and Kovalchuk foremost among them, and Bondra has for most of his career been the type who requires someone to feed him the puck. He's not as adept a creator on his own. In Washington, he'd have had to do a lot of that this year.

It's time to move on, Caps fans.

-- The Peerless

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