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Flames UFA RW Targets: Radim Vrbata

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Radim Vrbata did not a have a good season last season, why would the Flames be interested in signing him? Here's why.

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The first player I will examine to potentially help the Flames ailing RW position is Radim Vrbata who just finished up a more than disappointing season with the Vancouver Canucks. At 34 years of age and coming off of a massive 2 year 10 million dollar contract he will likely have to take a serious pay cut to fit into the Flames contract structure this summer. Whatever the price he ends up going for, the ultimate question is "just how much will he help the Flames?"

While only scoring 14 even strength points (8-6-14) last season in 63 games there doesn't appear to be much upside in signing this player at this point in time. However, he was also largely saddled with two young NHL players for most of his ice time. Via Left Wing Lock are the top 3 most common lines featuring Vrbata on the left wing.

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As you can see he spent the majority of his time with Flames cast off Sven Baertschi and second year center Bo Horvat. Following that, he was used sparingly with the Sedin twins despite being so successful with them in his first season with Vancouver and rounding out the top 3 most common lines is veteran Chris Higgins and rookie Jared McCann. This is not a recipe for success no matter which way you slice it.

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As we can see this was not exactly a glowing year for Vrbata on the stats sheet. His P/60 of 1.1 is a huge dip in his career even strength production while his possession was not only bad, it was bad compared to the rest of his team. As a result of this, the one thing that really sticks out to me is his GF%. That 34.5% is not only bad it also indicates that he was giving up too many scoring chances in general and high danger chances in particular. When you have Ryan Miller behind you providing league average goaltending this tells us instantly that he is not generating offense like he should be. This is somewhat mitigated by two factors. First, is his ZS% as well as his ZS%Rel. He was generally getting tougher zone starts than the rest of his team. Second, for nearly half of his ice time he was being centered by players with a combined 3 years NHL experience.

These two factors should not present as much of a problem in Calgary as they have Mikael Backlund and Matt Stajan doing the lion's share of the heavy lifting while Sean Monahan is more or less established as the teams top line center, at least until Sam Bennett one day takes over. Vrbata will be provided with quality centers for the majority of his playing time with the Flames, if he signs. So the question remains, why would the Flames take a chance on Vrbata?

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Because I believe that this has simply been a down year for him. This past season saw every category I'm considering suffering large drops when compared to his career averages. With the same ice time and a bit of a zone start push, every single area improves. In addition to perhaps better deployments with the Flames he also will not have to make up for the inexperience that comes with playing alongside young centers. He can focus more on his own game and just go back to scoring like he's been used to doing for the majority of his career. He is a gamble, but I think he's a fairly reasonable gamble depending on contract term and value.

Next up, Brad Boyes.

Statistics and contract information via War On Ice and General Fanager.