The reaction was mixed when Radim Vrbata re-signed with the Arizona Coyotes this fall. He’s silenced the doubters thus far.
Radim Vrbata really loves the Arizona Coyotes.
How else to explain the fact that he continues to return to the desert?
Losing, ownership issues, arena issues, none of those things have quelled Vrbata’s desire to soak up the sun in the Valley and play for the hometown Coyotes.
He’s been mighty productive for the team in the past, but after the 2013-14 season the franchise allowed Vrbata to sign with the Vancouver Canucks.
After an up-and-down stint in Canada, Vrby was seen as past his prime when the Yotes re-signed him to a one-year deal this offseason.
If scoring six goals and adding seven assists in 19 games is your idea of past his prime, the Arizona Coyotes could use about ten to fifteen other “past it” players.
On a team that suffers from a chronic inability to pull the trigger, Vrbata leads the team in shots-on-goal with 61.
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He’s shooting 9.8% this season which is right in line with his career average of 9.3%, meaning this is no fluke.
Vrbata plays to win and shoots to score, and through those 19 games he’s one of the few Arizona players doing both.
His presence has been a bright spot on a roster of underachievers and role players.
As the team struggles to get out of it’s own way, the 35-year-old Czech native has carried the offense. Along with Max Domi and Jordan Martinook, the trio have been the only consistent lights on the team as the Arizona Coyotes have fallen to the bottom of the NHL standings.
Vrby provides value with his experience, as well.
While he’s clearly not washed up, he has seen and experienced a lot in the National Hockey League. The majority of the Coyotes’ roster has not. Having a steadying presence like Radim Vrbata is good for the youth, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s showing them that productivity isn’t limited to your twenties.
As the Arizona Coyotes seek to fill and fix a myriad of holes that have cropped up early into the 2016-17 season, management can rest assured once again that Radim will show up to compete and produce on a nightly basis.
It’s hard to project where his point totals might lie at the end of the season.
Like Max Domi, he is currently on pace for around 60 points which seems a little high given his lower assist totals and heavier reliance on goal-scoring for production.
Bar injury, however, it would be pretty shocking if Radim Vrbata ends up shy of 20 goals and 45 points this season.
At age 35 and a one-year price of $3.25M, that’s quite the bargain for John Chayka.