Petr Nedved not signed going into training camp…where have we heard that before?
Step back to 1989 and the midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia was in Calgary for a junior tournament. Seventeen year old Center, Petr Nedved was about to take one of the biggest steps in his young life. With help from a local businessman who would go on to become his agent, the young Czech defected to Canada.
Already a talented hockey player, Nedved joined the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL for what would be his only season of Junior hockey in North America. Petr put together 145 points that year including 65 goals in just 71 games, a performance good enough to get him picked second overall in the 1990 Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks.
Thrust into the line-up at eighteen years of age, Nedved steadily improved his game over the first three years of his NHL career as part of a franchise that was beginning to have success as a team. As the Canucks wrapped up the 92-93 season with their second straight division title, Nedved was putting the finishing touches on his best year to date. With 38 goals (2nd on the team), Petr had finally begun to convert on his potential as an NHL star.
The timing couldn’t have been better, as Nedved’s agent pressed for a contract of more than $1,000,000 countering the Canucks $600,000 offer. The difference proved too difficult to overcome and Nedved had to satisfy himself with playing with the Canadian National Team before and then during the Winter Games.
As the season passed by it appeared that the Czech Center would miss the entire season, but a controversial deal with the St Louis Blues put Nedved back on the ice in March of 1994. His stay with the Blues ended later that same year when he was traded to the New York Rangers during the off-season. The very same year that the players association elected to stop work and therefore delay the start of the season.
By the time Nedved made his New York debut, the season had been almost halved…perhaps that was a good thing in hindsight. Petr Nedved’s first tour of duty with the Rangers proved to be unsatisfactory to both parties. GM Neil Smith later saw Nedved as “an artist” when the Rangers were looking to play a power game, while Ranger captain Mark Messier was much less tactful.
Once again Petr Nedved was traded, this time to Pittsburgh along with Sergei Zubov in exchange for Ulf Samuelsson and Luc Robitaille. Messier’s stinging criticism was still ringing in his ears as he started what would turn out to be his best season in the NHL. Eventually switched to the left wing, Nedved was paired with two of the best players in hockey in Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis. The match-up enabled the Czech to rack up 99 points, including 45 goals, before adding another 10 goals in the post season.
Nedved had found a home for his talents and went out to add 71 points in the following season before the financial side of the game once again took center stage. With his contract up for renewal, Nedved’s agent Tony Kondel made the case for a substantial increase, but the expectations of both sides were once again far apart.
Kondel and Pittsburgh GM Craig Patrick had few conversations after the initial tenders were made. Months would go by between calls and in an effort to stay ready, Nedved moved to the IHL before returning to the Czech Republic to play another lost season. With this second hold-out, Nedved began to attract an unhealthy reputation. Boston GM Harry Sinden was quoted as referring to his un-signed players as “a bunch of Nedveds” while other GMs attacked the Czech for his stance.
Meanwhile Tony Kondel had also developed a reputation for being a difficult person to deal with and questions were beginning to be asked about whether he was indeed serving his client’s best interest. After a year of inactivity Nedved decided to take matters into his own hands and switched agents to Mike Barnett who already represented Jagr and Gretzky. The move enabled Nedved to finally return to the NHL and to the New York Rangers who had since parted ways with his vocal detractor, Mark Messier.
Over the ensuing three years, Petr Nedved played solid hockey as the Rangers racked up one disappointing season after another. Initially playing next to Gretzky on the wing, Nedved shifted back to Center and watched as a parade of players donned New York Rangers blue. One of the few players who contributed regularly, Nedved now finds himself once again on the outer.
This has been another tough off-season for Petr, one in which he lost his agent (accepted position as Coyotes GM) and his left winger (Hlavac traded to Philadelphia for Lindros). The move to bring in Lindros will force him down the depth chart or perhaps back to the left wing.
As to the contract, it appears from Sather’s comments that he’s looking to sign Nedved to an incentive based contract including team performance bonuses and perhaps little in the way of a base salary increase. With the way the Rangers have performed over the last few seasons, it’s no wonder that the Nedved camp is reluctant to agree.
With Unrestricted Free Agency only a year away, Petr may be tempted to sit out once again it appears at least that the Rangers are willing to take the chance…