Prior to the Florida Panthers’ previous victory against the floundering last-place Buffalo Sabres, 36-year-old forward Radim Vrbata publicly announced he’ll be retiring following Florida’s home finale.
Bob Boughner fittingly rewarded the accomplished, highly decorated Vrbata by providing Radim with the privileged opportunity of participating in Florida’s home finale, receiving the start upfront.
Although Vrbata experienced a career-low, noticeably disappointing season regarding nearly all statistical categories, producing an utterly unimpressive slash line of 5G, 9A, and 14 points, participating in solely 42 regular season contests, Radim’s career as a Panther might’ve been considered a massive disappointment, but Vrbata’s entire NHL career certainly wasn’t, whatsoever.
Radim Vrbata was selected with the 199th overall selection in the 1999 NHL draft by the contending, widely feared Colorado Avalanche. Radim wound up spending several seasons playing in the QMJHL, including a brief stint in the AHL, before deservedly receiving a call-up during the 2001-02 NHL campaign. Vrbata was a member of the Avalanche for roughly two seasons, before subsequently departing via trade for the Carolina Hurricanes .
However, Vrbata’s career as a Hurricane was rather unsuccessful and unremarkable, as he’d eventually become acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005. Moreover, Vrbata essentially revived his dwindling hockey career in his short-lived tenure as a Blackhawk, but Radim’s career ultimately peaked upon joining the Coyotes. In the 2007-08 campaign, Vrbata registered an outstanding slash line of 27G, 29A, and 56 points, establishing himself as a dominant, ascending forward in the NHL.
Although, Vrbata committed an imprudent mistake by leaving the origin of his success, as Radim signed a three-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 2008, as a free agent. Furthermore, Vrbata played for the Lightning and in the Czech Republic throughout the course of the 2008-09 season, in which Radim notably experienced growing struggles, attempting in adapting himself by playing in completely different environments with entirely new teammates. Essentially, Radim inevitably realized that leaving the Coyotes wasn’t a wise decision; as the Czech native returned as a member of the Coyotes in the 2009-10 campaign via free agency.
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Ultimately, Radim Vrbata wound up suiting up for the Coyotes for the following five seasons (2009-2013), posting point totals of 43, 48, 62, 28 (lockout season), and 51 respectively, thus solidifying himself as a Coyote legend. With the aging veteran becoming an unrestricted free agent in the 2014 offseason, Radim was searching for a new home, and a competitive squad that’d provide him with a hefty contract.
Ultimately, Radim departed the Coyotes (recurring theme), joining forces with the playoff-hungry Vancouver Canucks, signing a two-year contract, with an average annual salary of five million dollars. Radim Vrbata experienced a career-best season regarding points, tallying 63 points (31G and 32A), leading the resurgent Canucks to a playoff berth. In 6 playoff contests, Radim registered an astounding tally of 2G, 2A, and 4 points all together, conveying what an excellent free agent addition Radim was, proving he was worthy of the contract he previously signed.
However, the 2015-16 season was the complete opposite for Radim, registering an abysmal line of 13G, 14A, and 27 points, while participating in 63 contests (injury-riddled season). As an impending unrestricted free agent, the Canucks and Vrbata mutually parted ways, realizing a fresh start could revitalize Radim’s downfalling career. No surprise, Radim Vrbata once again rejoined the Coyotes for a third stint, signing a one-year, bonus-heavy contract during the 2016 offseason.
To the surprise of Coyotes fans, Radim finished the 2016-17 season leading the club in scoring, recording a magnificent line of 20G, 35A, and 55 points, indicating the aging forward certainly contained some juice left in the tank. In the same season, Radim secured an NHL record regarding shootouts, becoming the all-time leader in shootout goals recorded. Radim Vrbata essentially concluded his Coyotes’ career by signing on with the Florida Panthers in the 2017 offseason.
Although, the Panthers organization and fans placed incredibly high expectations on Vrbata, considering the veteran produced a 55 point season a year ago, things simply didn’t work, as age caught up with Radim Vrbata.
In 1,057 NHL games, Radim recorded 284G, 339A, and 623 points, and when taking the NHL playoffs into account, Vrbata registered 8G, 10A, and 18 points, participating in 42 playoff games. Ultimately, Radim will indubitably become remembered as a shootout legend, a successful Czech forward, and a Coyotes hero.
From Florida Panthers and NHL fans alike, congratulations to Radim Vrbata on a phenomenal NHL career, spanning sixteen seasons! Best wishes in retirement and your future endeavors, “Vrby!”