"We don't consider one year at $1.5 million to be very serious."
So sayeth Rich Winter, pain-in-the-arse agent extraordinaire, about the last Washington Capitals offer to Unrestricted Free Agent right wing Peter Bondra. Statements like this are the reason the players and their union were on the short end of the PR stick during the lockout. How is $1,500,000 dollars not a serious salary offer for anyone? Try saying it out loud a few times: "One million, five hundred thousand dollars for one year."
Five hundred thousand...
For eight months of work."
Now start up that internal dialogue and respond to yourself:
"One million, five hundred thousand dollars for one season is not a serious amount of cash."
"One million, five hundred thousand dollars..."
"One million, five hundred...."
"But Bobby Clarke's owners will let him pay us more! So will Lou's and some other owners too! You're mean and unreasonable."
If you read this site regularly, you are well aware that I was and remain firmly anti-salary cap. You know that I have no problem with players negotiating the best possible deal that they can get. That applies here too, of course. Peter Bondra is welcome to use Rich Winter to maximize his earnings. He won't make friends with any management, he will alienate the majority of the Washington fan base that is begging him to come back, and he might even end up sitting out portions of the pre-season, but that's Bondra's lookout. You know what you're going to get when you hire Rich Winter to represent you.
I want Peter Bondra to return. Without seeing the team's salary and budget, I can't say how much the team "should" pay for him, but raising the bar a little is probably wise. With an agent like Winter speaking for Bondra, though, you can't give in. He'll seize on compromise, call it weakness, and ask for even more. He'll threaten hold-outs, he'll 'leak' the negotiations to the press, he'll put his tough-guy Super Agent image ahead of anything else. Bondra is represented by Winter, not just in negotiations, but now in the press. Bondra made a decision that Winter should speak for him to the Capitals, to the Devils, to the Flyers, Flames, Thrashers, and Sharks. Bondra wants Winter to be his public face for the media and the fans.
It seems that Bondra made a lousy choice.
At 37, after a disappointing playoff performance with an Ottawa team he should have excelled for, Bondra can't play the Alexei Yashin game (who represented Yashin, by the way?). To paraphrase the sorely missed Herb Brooks, Bondra doesn't have enough talent left to get signed on talent alone. He can market his 25+ goal potential and his still-very-good speed. He can point to his valuable special teams play, laser beam slapshot, and above-average defense. He can do that, but he won't make a $2.5 million dollar case on those: lots of guys match some or even all of those talking points and cost a fair amount less. What Bondra can play on is his solid-citizen, fan favorite image, his intangibles and, in Washington, his iconic status. He needs to be the guy who played his heart out after asking for a trade and then re-signed without public drama after Christmas, then went out and dropped a hat trick on Toronto the night the signing was announced. You've gotta market Peter Bondra as much as possible, and Winter doesn't seem to be doing that.
Ask yourself, if you were McPhee and in charge of rebuilding the Caps on the cheap, how much would you pay for a 37-year old winger with good goal-scoring potential but little playmaking skill? Now, how much would you pay to get Peter Bondra, Mr. Capital, back so he can end his career in Washington after boosting fan interest and affection for a season or two? Rich Winter's antics are forcing McPhee to answer the first question, not the second. The Capitals are acting in a reasonable fashion here. They are offering serious options and are apparently open to some compromise. They aren't trying to turn public opinion against Peter Bondra or the man who represents him.
Hey, Bondra, come back. Tell Winter to keep it out of the press, to stop playing games, and to work out the best possible deal. We want you in DC.