The timing couldn't be better for Radim Vrbata's contract extension with the Phoenix Coyotes. The 32-year old forward is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and will surely land a multi-year deal that will pay him much more than the $3 million he's currently making.
Helping his case is the fact that he's been one of the team's leading scorers since returning to the desert in 2009, and the fact that his general manager believes he's underpaid.
Vrbata and his camp had talks with Coyotes GM Don Maloney about an extension in the off-season, but nothing was hammered out and he preferred not to discuss anything in-season.
In talking about his player in September, Maloney gave a hint that Vrbata will be paid nicely when a deal can be finalized.
“Relative to the production he’s given us for the last two years but even prior to that, he’s been good value for us. But we like the value,” said Maloney at the time.
Productive seasons, a general manager who feels you're underpaid and now new ownership -- things are lining up for Vrbata to cash in this summer.
"I would [have preferred] to get it done before the season started," said Vrbata last week by phone. "Time to focus on my game and what I can do on the ice ... I think I would be lying if I said it's not on my mind."
In 304 games since re-joining the Coyotes in 2009, Vrbata has scored 99 goals and 207 points. A lot of that success, says Vrbata, is a matter of maturity.
"It all comes with experience," he said. "You have to realize there will be some games where you'll score from every where and there will be some games where it's not going to go in, even if you have an open net."
Since returning to Phoenix following a summer 2009 trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vrbata has a found his comfort level and an environment that suits he and his family.
After having their future shrouded in mystery, the Coyotes and their fans are encouraged by the steps the new ownership group has been taking. "It's a lot better this year," Vrbata said. "I think the ownership group is doing a great job."
From the new owners taking the team out to dinner during the preseason to congratulating them in the locker room after wins to joining them on road trips, Vrbata summed things up by saying "things are positive now."
Now that the Coyotes' ownership situation is settled for at least the next five years, Vrbata is hoping to be a part of that.
"I'm not going to lie, this is a really good fit for me and we like it here," he said. "The family, I like it here. On the other hand, we do want to be paid fair and when you look at my last 3-4 seasons, I've been very consistent and the numbers are what they are.
"We'll see what happens."
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