Radim Vrbata’s best years came in an Arizona Coyotes sweater. It appears he will be dressing in Sedona Red once more.
Sources: Free-agent forward Radim Vrbata is nearing a 1-year deal with the Coyotes. Story soon on @AZSports— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) August 15, 2016
A one-year contract appears to be in the works to bring the Czech winger back to Arizona after a short stint with the Vancouver Canucks. So why Vrbata? And why now?
At first glance, Vrbata’s production numbers worringly nosedived from the first year of his deal with the Canucks to his second. After a 31 goal season in 2014-15, Vrbata had just 13 the following year.
But appearances can be deceiving. And looking a little deeper, there are a couple reasons to believe that Vrbata did not suddenly forget how to play hockey over one summer.
First, the caliber of Vrbata’s linemantes changed dramatically. In his first year, Vrbata was primarily playing with the Sedin twins; the two combined for 21 goals and 13 assists in 565 5v5 minutes apiece while Vrbata was on the ice with Daniel and Henrik. The following year, Vrbata played primarily with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, who combined for two goals and nine assists when they were on the ice together at 5v5.
So simply put, Vrbata was not playing with some of the best playmakers of the game, and his production suffered accordingly. And with nearly 300 fewer minutes at 5v5, there were fewer opportunities for Vrbata to record points.
Second, Vrbata’s advanced stats line up well with the league as a whole.
His scoring and playmaking rates over the past three years are what we would expect to see from a middle six winger, while his shot generation and productive possession totals put him squarely in the second line winger range.
Assuming Tobias Rieder re-signs (still a significant possibility given the time left before camp opens), Vrbata would be pegged for the second line right-wing position. So based on his numbers, Vrbata would be utilized in a role suited to his production rates.
And ultimately, a one-year deal carries next to no risk for the Coyotes. If it works out, Vrbata should make up for what the Coyotes lost when Mikkel Boedker departed.
My guess is if he plays Top Six and Power Play minutes, he should replace Boedker's totals (13 G in 62 games) with better shot rates.— Brendan Porter (@brendanporter) August 15, 2016
If it doesn’t, then the Coyotes are not locked into a contract long-term. There is little downside for the Coyotes, while there is a strong possibility that the team is buying low on Vrbata. This could be a move that works out well for both parties involved, and at the very least, the Coyotes bring back a veteran forward who is both a fan favorite and a reminder of the heights the Coyotes wish to reach soon.