Florida Panthers: The unsuspected downfall of Radim Vrbata

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Radim Vrbata
SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Radim Vrbata /

During the eventful offseason of 2017, the Florida Panthers ultimately decided to acquire veteran winger Radim Vrbata via free agency, mutually agreeing to a one-year deal, worth approximately $2.5 million.

General Manager Dale Tallon certainly expected consistent offensive production from the experienced Vrbata following the acquisition. Fans were enthusiastically optimistic regarding the potential beneficial impact Vrbata could provide to Florida’s top six.

Vrbata resurrected his declining career last season in Arizona by shockingly registering a team-leading 55 points (28 point improvement from 2015-16), on an offensively challenged Arizona Coyotes team.

Following an awfully impressive preseason and training camp, Head Coach Bob Boughner evidently decided slotting Radim on the second line alongside dominant force Vincent Trocheck, with hope that it would bolster and stabilize the second line. Initially, Boughner seemed brilliant by enabling Vrbata to play high-end minutes.

Upon unexpectedly injuring himself versus the Los Angeles Kings on November 18th, Vrbata produced consistently by logging approximately 11 points in 18 games.

However, Radim was enduring an ongoing eight game pointless drought, which he ended with a goal against Vegas last night (Dec,17th). Apart from the game in which he scored a hat trick against the Anaheim Ducks, Vrbata has only recorded one goal after that.

Bob Boughner surprisingly attempted to send a message to Radim Vrbata by healthy-scratching the savvy 36-year-old against Chicago.

Vrbata eventually returned versus the Colorado Avalanche; however, Radim unimpressively logged below 12 minutes, recording 2 shots on goal (SOG), and 0 points. Overall, Vrbata appears frightened of playing physically or aggressively following experiencing a gruesome upper-body injury weeks ago.

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Although Florida technically/mathematically remain in playoff contention (outside looking in), shopping Radim Vrbata relatively soon would be a warranted, justified, and realistic option. Quite frankly, Florida’s heading towards a youthful movement and swaying away from the veteran presence (Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Jussi Jokinen, etc.).

Ultimately, retaining Vrbata seems unlikely, especially since his statistics are decreasing exponentially. His age is the highest of concerns, and with him turning 37 in June, his game will only decline/deteriorate even more.

Perhaps flipping Vrbata (final year left on contract) for a mid-low level draft pick would be an ideal scenario. The inevitable departure of Radim Vrbata would instantly enable promising youngsters such as Dryden Hunt, Henrik Hapaala, and Jayce Hawryluk to earn more minutes in an elevated role right now.

In a year-two from now, others such as Henrik Borgstrom, Aleksi Heponiemi, and Owen Tippett will all need the opportunity/chance to showcase their talents on the big stage.

Clearly, Florida had higher expectations for Radim Vrbata; however, trading as opposed to retaining would be highly advised/recommended, especially since Radim’s trade value is continually plummeting as the season progresses.

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In summation, the signing of Radim Vrbata simply hasn’t worked out, thus conveying that both sides may be willing to part ways and head in a different direction fairly soon. As opposed to allowing Vrbata to leave via free agency, Dale Tallon should attempt to acquire anywhere from a 4th-6th round pick for Vrbata’s services.