As you all know Jerome Iginla is set to become a free agent as of 12 noon tomorrow. If the Bruins are unable to retain his services it will leave a large gap on our top line. Now while that spot could be filled with a player already in the Bruins organization there are free agent options to fill that top line right wing spot. One of those options has been reported to have the Bruins on a short list of interested teams. That player would be Radim Vrbata who spent this past season playing for the now Arizona Coyotes
Vrbata was drafted 212th overall by Colorado in the 1999 draft. Throughout his career he has been over looked and is considered one of the most underrated top six winger in the NHL. Vrbata's career didn't get off to a blistering start but he was able to score 30 points in 51 games in his rookie year with the Avs. In his second season he once again scored 30 points but this time in 66 games for the Avs. Now considering he was picked 212th those are great numbers but he was traded to the Hurricanes and in 10 games he scored 5 points finishing the year with 35 points in 76 games. His stay with Carolina would only last the next season and about a month into the year after and in those 96 games Vrbata scored just 30 points and was traded to Chicago.
Chicago is where Vrbata finally showed what he was really capable of scoring 34 points in 45 games the rest of that season finishing with 39 points in 61 games. Vrbata continued to improve the next season as he would score 41 points in 77 games but this was not enough to keep him in Chicago as he found himself with the now Arizona Coyotes the next season. In his first season Vrbata set career highs accross the board with 27 goals 29 assists and 56 points in 76 games going plus 6. Even with his increased production he was on the move once again landing in Tampa but he would only play 18 games and score 6 points before going back to the Coyotes the next season where he has stayed till now. In that first season back Vrbata would again surpass the 20 goal plateau scoring 24 and finishing with 43 points in 82 games. The next season now the 2010-11 season Vrbata would score 19 goals and 48 points. His next season 2011-12 would be the best of his career seeing him now pass the 30 goal plateau for the only time so far scoring 35 goals and setting a career high with 62 points while going plus 24. In the lockout shortened season Vrbata was only able to play 34 games but scored at the highest rate of his career with 28 points a rate of .82 points per game. It was a full 82 game season Vrbata would have finished with 67 points. Now this just leaves last season where he scored 20 goals and set a career high for assists with 31 finishing with 51 points in 80 games.
While most of his numbers might not jump off the page just think about the talent he has had to play with over the years. The best point total for a center on a team he had a major role with was 54 by Peter Mueller back in the 07-08 season. If Vrbata were to come to the Bruins he would be playing with either Krejci or Bergeron and both of them were able to score over 60 points last season 69 for Krejci and 62 for Bergeron. Now with the chemistry Bergeron was able to build with Reilly Smith last year it's unlikely that Vrbata would take his place so that leaves the first line playing with Krejci. David Krejci would be the best playmaking center Vrbata has played with yet by far. The lowest assist total Krejci has had in a full season was 35 back in the 09-10 season. On the other side he has also finished a year with 49 assists or more three times last year the 08-09 season and the 10-11 season.
On top of this clearly being the best talent Vrbata would have played with in his career he is still only 33 meaning he could still have 3 more years of very productive play. Another reason is his last two contracts were both three year deals worth nine million dollars. So that's a cap hit of three million a season which could easily be cleared by trading away center Chris Kelly. On top of him being a very affordable replacement for a top line player he possesses speed something the Bruins were in dire need of against the Canadiens in the playoffs. Yes Iginla is a great goal scorer but most of his work was done with his strength and willingness to go to the dirty areas and clean up goals. Vrbata brings a better set of hands that will come alive receiving passes from Krejci.
To me this would be a great signing and even if he isn't the most defensive forward available his scoring touch and the overall defensive nature of the Bruins would make up for any shortcomings his defensive ability would have. Yes this means trading Kelly and that Iginla wasn't able to reach a deal but it could be much worse. Kelly is no longer needed with the breakout of Soderberg and the Bruins do need speed and pure shooting ability which Vrbata brings. Yes I would rather have Iginla for one more year and get to see him life the cup with Boston but if it's not to be there are other options out there and this is one of the better ones. Make sure to keep an eye on Boston Madness tomorrow as free agency starts at noon and there will be plenty of action to go around. Who gets signed who gets traded what new players are coming in and what old ones are leaving for updates on all of it keep it locked right here.