By Madalyn Heimann
Radim Vrbata’s best years came as a Coyote, and as of Sunday night he looks to be returning to the desert for his 15th NHL season.
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 1999 seventh round pick by the Colorado Avalanche, right winged Vrbata has played on six NHL teams. His career began in 2001 with the Avalanche, then he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in March of 2003, again traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in December of 2005, he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in August of 2007, as a free agent in 2008 he signed a three year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, left the Lightning to play in the Czech Republic and when he returned in 2009 he was forced to find another team, he then returned to Phoenix for five seasons, and left the Coyotes in free agency signing a two-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.
Vrbata’s time in Phoenix was not only goof for him, but for the team. During the 2011-2012 season Vrbata scored a career high 35 goals, and helped the Coyotes reach the playoffs for the third straight season. In the 2012 playoffs he had ice time in all 16 games, as Phoenix went on an improbable run to the Western Conference Finals. Vrbata contributed two goals and three assists as the team went further than they ever had before. Though Vrbata played two more seasons with the team, he never quiet had the same production until his first season with the Canucks. In 2014-2015 Vrbata found his game, having a career high 63 points in the regular season and adding two more goals in the Canucks six playoff games.
Radim struggled last season only scoring 13 times, and has spent all summer in free agency. Vrbata looks to return to a place that was a highlight of his career on just a one-year contract, which makes it a possible “little risk, high reward” situation for Arizona. The Coyotes should not expect the same production from Vrbata that they got in 2011-2012, but with 934 career goals, knowing the Dave Tippett system, and re-joining many of his former teammates, there is no limit to what Vrbata can bring to the team.