Washington Capitals forwards Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka, who have been in training camp without contracts, say they are leaving this morning for Detroit, where they will open the International Hockey League season tomorrow with the Vipers.
"We're going there to play and to wait," said Bondra, the NHL's No. 1 goal scorer last season. "Maybe we'll get a better deal from the Capitals. Maybe Mr. Poile [general manager David Poile] will trade us. We don't know what will happen. But, hopefully, it will work out and we'll be back. We want to play for the Capitals."
Bondra and Pivonka, Washington's third-leading scorer, said they came to Capitals training camp as a show of good faith.
But over the past week, the gap between what the Capitals have offered and what the players' agent, Rich Winter, has sought has not closed significantly.
In fact, after Winter's last proposal, Poile said he did not "see any sense" in making a counterproposal.
The Capitals' last offer of $1.2 million for Bondra and $900,000 for Pivonka is approximately $1 million shy of what Winter has requested for both players.
Poile was not available last night.
The Vipers, who took in defenseman Kevin Hatcher before he left Washington for Dallas last year, gave Bondra and Pivonka contracts that will pay them a salary comparable to the deal offered by the Capitals.
"It is a deal that will stop whenever we want," Bondra said.
Pivonka said: "We're not supposed to be in camp in the first place without a contract, and we needed to find somewhere that we could go and play."