Per former Bruins defenseman and TSN analyst Aaron Ward, the B’s are one of 5-6 teams that have expressed interest in impending free agent Radim Vrbata. The 33-year-old righty shooting Vrbata scored 20 goals and 51 points in 80 games for the Phoenix Coyotes last season, and has averaged 22 goals per season over the last five years with the Desert Dogs topping out with a high of 35 goals and 62 points in 2011-12.
According to Ward, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose were among the other teams that expressed interest in the free agent’s services.
Vrbata’s 263 shots on net for the Coyotes last season would have led the Bruins by a wide margin this past season, and the price tag wouldn’t be quite as high for the Czech right wing. Vrbata could make for an interesting pairing with center David Krejci, and with left wing Milan Lucic on the B’s top line with Jarome Iginla still undecided on his NHL landing spot for next season.
While Peter Chiarelli said last weekend at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia that he’d had no problem bumping Loui Eriksson up to the right wing spot on the top line, the Bruins would ideally like to get a right shot riding on the right side of that forward trio. Vrbata could definitely be the shooter needed for that line, but there’s also some level of unpredictability with him.
Vrbata signed a three-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the 2008-09 season, and then asked out of Tampa just a couple of months into his first season citing personal reasons. Vrbata was then traded back to the Phoenix team he’d played for the previous season when it was clear things weren’t going to work out with the Lightning.
Interestingly Vrbata has played for a pair of three-year, $9 million contracts over the last six NHL seasons, and $3 million might be the ballpark salary if the Bruins were looking to sign him on a short term deal.
The Bruins have several options as replacements if Iginla signs with the Wild, Red Wings, Avalanche or any other number of suitors. A potentially low rent option like Vrbata might be a possibility, and an aging veteran on a bonus-laden deal like Daniel Alfredsson certainly might be another option for the Black and Gold.