WASHINGTON - Peter Bondra choked up twice while talking about his trade to the Senators. Not even the prospect of playing for a Stanley Cup contender could ease the trauma of a sudden goodbye after 14 years with the Capitals.
"I grew up here. I grew up as a player. I grew up as a person," Bondra said in an emotional farewell appearance Wednesday in the Capitals locker room. "I have to understand that I have to move on."
Bondra became the latest victim of the Capitals' salary purge. The franchise's all-time leading scorer is heading north, giving the Senators another offensive threat in their Stanley Cup playoff drive.
The Capitals received center prospect Brooks Laich and a 2005 second-round pick for the fan favorite who had spent his entire career in Washington.
"We're supposed to be big, tough guys, but there were a lot of tears this morning," general manager George McPhee said. "We thought it was best for Peter. We worked harder to find the best place for him to play. Peter didn't want to leave. This wasn't something management and ownership wanted to do. We thought it was good for Peter and good for us."
Unaware that something was up, Bondra showed up for practice Wednesday morning with his two children, who had the day off from school. Then Bondra noticed McPhee at the rink.
"I never see George that early," Bondra said. He said he then instinctively turned to his kids and said: "This is it. This is my last day here."
The last-place Capitals, who claim to be losing money, traded captain Steve Konowalchuk to Colorado in October and Jaromir Jagr to the Rangers last month.