Saturday, August 20, 2005

Rmours Afloat For Coveted Veteran

By Nick Faris
Red Line Corp. Writer

Back in his day, Peter Bondra could pot 30+ goals in a season effortlessly, sometimes in just over half a season, while scoring on nearly 20% of his shots, netting at least 5 shorthanded goals in that year.

Now he's 37, close to retirement, and fresh off a rough stint with the Ottawa Senators, scoring just 5 goals in 23 games. Last game, as one of the Washington Capitals' leaders, both in the locker room and on the scoresheet, he was only able to score 49 points in 77 games, hardly the point-a-game man he once was. Yet the Ukranian is the most coveted free agent in the game right now.

Hoping to add a sniper to their lineup for a few years, no less than nine teams have reportedly contacted Bondra. Most recently, Atlanta has been hoping to complement top scorers Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk with Bondra. He still owns a house in the city he's spent all of his career in (except for his latest stint), so a return there (Washington) isn't ruled out. Neither is a return to the other capital city of North America...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are the nine franchises reportedly interested in Bondra, and their chances of getting him:

1. Anaheim - They currently have $34,168,500 used in cap room, most of that from Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Federov, and Jean-Sébastien Giguere. With Federov, Peter Sykora, and Steve Rucchin up front, don't expect them to sign Bondra, especially with Stanislav Chistov, Ruslan Salei, and Samuel Pahlsson left to sign.

Chances: 2 of 10

2. Atlanta - With about $15 million left to spare in the cap, Atlanta should be a top contender. Even with Heatley and Kovalchuk left to sign, they could still sign the trio and still come up at least $3 or 4 million away from the limit.

Chances: 8 of 10

3. Buffalo - With 26 players under contract at approximately $18 million (10 are undisclosed, however), Buffalo certainly has the room. They don't need another top scorer, however - not with Chris Drury, Maxim Afinagenov, and Daniel Briere.

Chances: 5 of 10

4. Chicago - Chicago, a young team like all other re-builders, needs leadership, and scoring. Bondra would fit that description perfectly. The Hawks could sign Bondra for about $1 million, perhaps even less for the aging European. With only Adrian Aucoin, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Eric Daze proven top-calibre NHLers, the team could use another force. The problem is, would this be an attractive destination for Bondra?

Chances: 5.5 out of 10

5. Florida - The sunny beaches of Florida could be a great fit for Bondra - who wouldn't want to be there? After acquiring two bona-fide vets in Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk, as well as proven players Martin Gelinas and Jozef Stumpel, and still with just $15 million spent, could grab another star to lead this team into uncharted waters - the playoffs.

Chances: 7 out of 10

6. Ottawa - The future of this team could hang in the balance with the Marian Hossa arbitration hearing. If they can coax Hossa into signing a long-term deal before his Tuesday hearing, they might have just enough space (a slim chance) to sign Bondra to a one-year deal. If not, then don't expect the sniper to return. Either way, he probably won't be there.

Chances: 3.5 out of 10

7. Phoenix - This is not a strong possibility - with perhaps the best pure goal-scorer in NHL history, Brett Hull, already on the team, as well as Shane Doan, Peter Nedved, Ladislav Nagy, Mike Comrie, and Mike Ricci, don't expect Bondra to be heading to the Great One's land.

Chances: 1.5 out of 10

8. St. Louis - St. Louis' question is, are they wanting to indulge in another veteran? They already have Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight signed. Of course, after that, the list drops off, leaving them with plenty of cap room and few free agents of their own to sign. Could Bondra be heading here? Possibly, but probably not.

Chances: 4 out of 10

9. Washington - Our last team has the strongest chance. Ever since Ottawa's season ended in 2003-04, rumours of Peter Bondra returning to the other capital were floating around. Those rumours are suddenly looking very legitimate. Bondra has played, save for the 23-game round with the Senators, every single game of his 984-game, 14-year career with the Capitals, and could be looking to move back there. It could certainly use him, on a team with approximately five players old enough to earn UFA status.

Chances: 9 of 10

Will Peter choose to stay in the capital he is in, or go back to the head city of America? Could he head to the beach or the Windy City? The desert or DisneyLand? The rumours are floating everywhere, and it will be soon where we'll know where they're surfacing.

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