Radim Vrbata had two choices on Wednesday.
He could accept an offer from the Arizona Coyotes that wasn’t cash rich annually but offered long-term security, according to GM Don Maloney. Or he could go short-term and leave as an unrestricted free agent to another team, leaving the franchise with whom he found his greatest success in the NHL.
According to Ben Kuzma, the other teams in the mix for Vrbata late included the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Coyotes and the New Jersey Devils, who are apparently intent on signing every Czech player above the age of 30 in the NHL.
Vrbata, 33, had 20 goals and 31 assists in 80 games last season, with 10 power-play goals. He’s two seasons removed from a 35-goal season.
Vrbata was drafted No. 212 overall by Colorado in 1999, playing two seasons there, parts of three in Carolina and two in Chicago. He was traded to the Coyotes in August 2007 and blew up the next season with 27 goals in 76 games.
He took his talents to Tampa Bay as a free agent and washed out in spectacular fashion, while dealing with some family issues. He returned to the Coyotes via trade after being loaned to a team in Czech Republic by Tampa, and reestablished himself as a goal-scoring winger.
According to reports, Vrbata gets $4 million and a $1 million signing bonus in both seasons. It’s a good short-term deal for both sides: Vrbata makes money now, and potentially more as the cap rises; and Vancouver avoids long-term commitment as they figure out their direction under Jim Benning.
The same Jim Benning that just prevented his former team in Boston from winning the Vrbata derby, incidentally...
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