Canucks get their goal-scorer, sign Radim Vrbata

On July 1st, Jim Benning was quick to say that he wasn’t done in free agency with the addition of Ryan Miller. He said they would continue to look at the secondary free agent market — the lesser lights, as it were — for scoring help. Considering the Canucks were third last in goalscoring last season, it was a necessary move to ensure that the Canucks top offensive prospects weren’t going to be asked to do too much, too soon.

Vrbata was obviously not the biggest name in free agency and is an obvious step down from the likes of Mike Cammalleri, Thomas Vanek, and Paul Stastny. He also doesn’t fill the vacant second-line centre role, meaning Nick Bonino will likely start the season there. He is, however, a legitimate top-six forward on a short-term deal, so there’s a lot to like.

The only issue is that he isn’t a second-line centre, but he does replace Ryan Kesler in one way: he wore 17 with the Coyotes.

According to reports, the deal is for two years, $10 million. $5 million per year is a significant raise from his previous two contracts, which both paid $3 million per year, but the shorter term makes that more understandable. Vrbata has spent the last five seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes and was in discussions with the Arizona Coyotes to return.

 

The shorter term was likely palatable to Vrbata not just because of the bigger paycheque, but also because he has a good shot of spending at least part of the season with the Sedins. He’s two years removed from a 35-goal season with the offensively-challenged Coyotes, so playing with two elite playmakers like the Sedins has to be a tempting proposition.

 

If he does play with the Sedins, it will be the first time the twins will have a legitimate goalscorer on their line, depending on your opinion of Alex Burrows. Vrbata has scored 20+ goals in 4 seasons, 18 and 19 in two other seasons, and 12 goals and 28 points in 34 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Alternately, Vrbata could provide some scoring punch to the second line, with either Burrows or Zack Kassian on the top line. The big question is whether Bonino can get him the puck. While Bonino has reasonable vision and has proven to be more of a passer than a shooter in the past, he’s coming off a career-year that was partly percentage driven.

Vrbata has strong underlying numbers at even-strength and is also an effective player on the power play, scoring 21 of his 51 points last season with the man advantage, including 10 goals. He has been fairly reliable in the shootout throughout his career, scoring 34 times on 80 attempts for a 42.5% success rate. That would make him second behind Nick Bonino on the Canucks and he has more than twice as many shootout attempts as Alex Burrows, who now has second-most on the Canucks.

Basically, Vrbata is a reasonably good top-six forward who can contribute in a number of ways. The $5 million cap hit is a lot, but the term makes that palatable.

Since he’s signed for only two seasons, he shouldn’t hold any prospects back from making an impact long-term. This allows Nicklas Jensen and Hunter Shinkaruk to at least start the season in the AHL, which is ideal for their development.

But really, the reason I like this signing is the number of terrible “verb” puns we’ll be able to make this season. Either that or his nickname will just be a different verb each game. Radim “Jump” Vrbata. Radim “Placate” Vrbata. Radim “Argue” Vrbata. That won’t get old at all.

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40 comments

  1. Thomas Shipley
    July 2, 2014

    Hoping to goodness gracious that the $6.75mil of capspace is enough to sign Vey, and re-sign Kassian and Tanev!

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 2, 2014

      You can add $925,000 to that for Markstrom, who will surely be waived to the AHL — $1.2 million if he gets claimed off waivers — and $591k for Corrado, who likely won’t start the season in the NHL. That gives the Canucks a little north of $8.2 million.

      Here’s what I figure the Canucks RFAs will get, but I could be wrong:

      Kassian – $1.6m
      Tanev – $3.5m
      Vey – $1.0m
      Weber – $1.2m

      That’s $7.3 million, leaving the Canucks with just under $1 million in space left. That’s enough space for Bo Horvat to make the team and for the Canucks not to lose anybody to trade or waivers.

      Not a ton of wiggle room there, but there’s no harm in Vey starting in the AHL either.

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      • Andy
        July 3, 2014

        I really hope we can squeeze Tanev in closer to $2.5-$3 and resign Santorelli for $2M/year for 2 years.

        To be honest, I also hope trader Jim can find a buyer for Hansen – I’d much rather have Santa than Beaker.

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      • Chinook
        July 4, 2014

        HA, you were way way off on Kassian….. Seriously, good call.

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  2. BMo
    July 2, 2014

    Isn’t Shinkaruk too young for the AHL – doesn’t he (like Horvat) have to go back to junior if he doesn’t make the Canucks?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 2, 2014

      From talking to people in the know, Shinkaruk is eligible to play in the AHL. Can’t recall if it’s because of his age — he turns 20 in October — or because he’s already played 4 full seasons in the CHL, or both.

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      • Neil B
        July 2, 2014

        From what I understand, it’s an either/or question; and since he’s played four seasons in CHL, he’s good to go to AHL if he doesn’t make the team.

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      • ikillchicken
        July 2, 2014

        That’s good to hear. I really hope Jensen, Shinkaruk and Gaunce see some NHL play this year. But it may be unrealistic for them to make the team full time without being periodically relegated to a limited role. Hopefully they can mostly continue to develop in the AHL while still seeing periodic call ups when possible.

        Anyway, I like this signing. A good solid transition signing that won’t handicap us long term but will prevent us from throwing young players in over their heads. I really think there’s something to be said for that. And honestly, even with this addition I don’t think we’ll actually be a playoff team in the west so we’ll still get a high lottery pick next summer.

        It also makes me feel better about Miller which now looks like more of a transition signing as well. I mean, I still wish we’d also gone with, say, Hiller at 2yrs/4.5M instead of Miller and 3yrs/6M. But I suppose the prior isn’t horrible either. So long as it is also supposed to be a transition signing and Lack still gets 30 starts and continues to develop.

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      • Locky
        July 2, 2014

        Age it is Daniel, the NHL-CHL agreement states players that turn 20 before December 31 may play in the AHL that year.

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  3. T-Canuck
    July 2, 2014

    I like it, considering that the door wasn’t being beat down for players wanting to play for Vancouver. The money seams a little steep but from what I’ve seen of him he plays a fast paced puck movement game so he might work really well with the twins.
    The shoot out percentage looks good too given that we might be see a few of them this season….and I really don’t like watching Danny and Henk make a feeble attempt at it.
    One thing for sure there are a lot of options for new merch purchases :)
    Go Canucks Go

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  4. Big Jim Backer
    July 2, 2014

    A reasonable term, and looks like like a good addition to the Power Play. Please Willie D, don’t make him block shots.

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  5. Chunky's Choice
    July 2, 2014

    So I guess they’re not rebuilding anymore? I think Vrbata, Miller, Bonino, Sbisa, and Vey are actually an upgrade on Kesler and Garrison, so the team is better now than it was last week. Unfortunately, it might still be not good enough to win now, but now not bad enough to win later.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      July 3, 2014

      If you think the team has gotten better, how is that not a “rebuild”?

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      • Mr Quirky
        July 3, 2014

        I believe he means rebuilding as in two or three years of missing the playoffs while your younger players get experience. This is looking more like a reload now than a rebuild.

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        July 3, 2014

        There’s more than one template for rebuilding. Tanking for draft positioning isn’t the only way to do it. Canucks fans seem to be fetishizing the concept of losing with younger players in the NHL, but ignoring the fact that that strategy has really not worked very well for most teams. This forum always seems full of advocates for an extreme peak and valley model of team success, whereby a team needs to be patently terrible to be good later on. That may have gotten Chicago a couple of high picks that have been useful to them, but it’s not how most of the other powers in the league got to where they are. As has been highlighted on this blog, the AHL is an excellent development league, especially if the right personnel are in place down there. With Vancouver owning their AHL club, they can use it to give young guys big time ice at a high level of competition. You don’t need to be the Oilers and promote all of your high draft picks right away only to see them get their rear-ends handed to them every game physically and on the scoresheet. That’s getting experience all right, experience of losing.

        It is possible to remain competitive for long periods of time just by managing assets wisely (ie: selling high on veteran players), drafting shrewdly, and looking for value in free agency. I suppose on #2 we’ll have to see about this regime but to their credit, Benning and all do seem to be going all on on #1 and 3. Call it what you want to call it “rebuild” “retool” “refresh” etc (all completely arbitrary terms), but this team is going to ice a very different lineup and a very different style of play next year.

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        • Ojibwe
          July 3, 2014

          I completely agree with you BUT this “That may have gotten Chicago a couple of high picks that have been useful to them, but it’s not how most of the other powers in the league got to where they are.” Yeah, right now, that’s not true in many cases, LA, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, even Boston and St. Louis have all improved immensely, thanks to high draft positions. Which leaves President’s trophy winner Anaheim but everybody knows getting lucky at the 2003 draft has been pretty integral to their success. So, it looks like either great luck drafting in 2003 or tanking were integral parts to building a great team last year. Personally, I’m concerned that in the salary cap era, with all the expensive contracts handed out every free agency, that the boom and bust model might be the only one that’s consistently viable. Look at Detroit, after 20 years of consistent dominance and now they’re a playoff bubble team. I think that’s due to other scouting departments improving but the salary cap and inflated salaries probably hasn’t helped. I’m wont be surprised if they’re tanking in the next couple of years in an effort to climb the standings.

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    • kenji
      July 3, 2014

      This is definitely a team that’s rebuilding too.

      They didn’t sell off their young prospects to get better at the draft or in free agency but flipped Kesler and Garrison for players in the mid-20s age range where the Canucks were (and still are) thin.

      Now the players can look around the room and think that they have a pretty good chance of winning games.

      If it doesn’t work out, they can sell off more vets at the deadline for picks and fail for McDavid. Watching this team has taught me that that it’s easier to drop than to rise. So there is no need for fans of rebuilding to desire to see a stripped carcass of the old roster starting the 14/15 season!

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  6. bluemoonjones
    July 2, 2014

    Thank you great spirit in the sky…
    Granted, it took a while, but still…
    I’ll take it…

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  7. Matthew Hanlon
    July 2, 2014

    I’ve always enjoyed watching Radim play and have always hoped the Canucks could pick him up one day, my wish has been granted.

    The only issue I have with him is that he hasn’t proven to be a good scorer outside of Arizona, fingers crossed the Sedins and him have some good chemistry and produce right off the bat.

    Welcome to Vancouver Radim!!!

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  8. steveB
    July 2, 2014

    Whither Mike Santorelli?

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  9. Brent
    July 2, 2014

    Thus makes me happier. too much money, Too much for Miller as well but that seems to be the way these days.

    So why don’t “we” want to sign Santorelli? Will he go to the Ducks to play with Kesler?

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    • Andy
      July 3, 2014

      It’s looking more like insufficient money/term.

      Given that players like Miller & Vrbata both signed for under 3 years, I’m guessing Santorelli’s agent was pushing for 3+ years at $3M (which Benning didn’t want to do)
      Hopefully the lack of free agency activity around him convinces him to sign with us at a more reasonable rate (I’m hoping 2-3 years, $2M per)

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  10. Quincy
    July 2, 2014

    This leaves them heavy on the right and light on the left, a trade perhaps for a LWinger? Do we need a Burrows and a Hansen? I know NTC.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 3, 2014

      Worth noting that apparently Vrbata can also play left wing, and Burrows was originally on the left wing, I believe, before playing with the Sedins. Could be wrong, but it’s not unusual to see wingers switch sides.

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  11. akidd
    July 2, 2014

    nice one! we’ve all seen way to much of vrbata for years now. he’s bored us to tears with his cabaret friends the phoenix coyotes on many a tuesday night of some dark winter month. no surprises there, i don’t think. we get a guy who’s been raised in the trenches of the western conference playing against the best competition. he’s a honed knife.

    so, i guess, ‘get better’ seems to be the new deal. i guess #6 is as high as we go i that draft. the thought of a top pick next year too was intoxicating. drew you in like sirens. dangerous.

    but benning has wax in his ears. that’s all we’re dipping in the lottery jar. we’ve still got a snowball’s chance of besting the pacific divison but at least we should still roll over those eastern teams. not bad, keeps ya from being internetted in the head too much by those cotu types:) nothing wrong with being respectable.

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  12. PD
    July 3, 2014

    To what degree do you guys think Benning would have considered shootout prowess in his choices? Maybe it’s just coincidence (or simply a sign of how crappy at shootouts the Nucks have been) but the top two shootout performers are the new guys.

    It’s hard to imagine it was a major factor in his decisions, but it has been a real weak spot on this team, and shootouts are a pretty important part of the game these days.

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  13. BBoone
    July 3, 2014

    Given the reasonable assumption that Coach Willie brings out the potential
    And especially if the few vets who were Torturelled recover , I don’t see this team being easy to beat . The prospect pool is a lot better . It seems the Sedins and Edler are the most important vets who need to rebound in order for the 2014 /15 Canucks to thrive.

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  14. micasa
    July 3, 2014

    If Santo didn’t re-sign because he wanted more than 1 year, could Benning please give him 2? If the team is half as concerned as everyone else is about their lack of depth at centre, then why aren’t they doing this??

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    • Naturalmystic
      July 3, 2014

      It might be a negotiating tactic but Benning in an interview on the Team didn’t sound that interested in Santorelli.

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    • Neil B
      July 3, 2014

      We already have two 3Cs who can play up, and a young C who can play wing. Sadly, I don’t think there’s room for Santa. Not unless we dump a less-productive, but more durable, 3rd line winger for him, and I’m not sure that’s what Benning wants to do.

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    • James
      July 3, 2014

      Santo signed with the Leafs. 1 year for 1.5mil.

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      • Andy
        July 3, 2014

        If Jim Benning passed up on an offer like that, then it’s abundantly clear that he doesn’t care for fan reaction. Resigning a ‘local boy’ to another deal for less than 2 mil is a fantastic way to shore up enthusiasm.

        …or I’m just bargaining with the fact that we lost Santorelli for peanuts. >.<

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      • steveB
        July 3, 2014

        Dang it! it’s Mason Raymond 2.0
        So he wanted 2 years from the Canucks, but settles for 1 year from the Leafs?
        Colour me disappointed.

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  15. westcan
    July 3, 2014

    But really, the reason I like this signing is the number of terrible “verb” puns we’ll be able to make this season. Either that or his nickname will just be a different verb each game. Radim “Jump” Vrbata. Radim “Placate” Vrbata. Radim “Argue” Vrbata. That won’t get old at all.

    Sorry I don’t get it

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  16. Naturalmystic
    July 3, 2014

    Change is coming.

    What will Vancouver choose as a new slogan after the team is out of the playoff picture by mid-January?

    Vrbata won’t score 20 goals this season.

    Bonino isn’t the player you guys think he is. His power play goals will not transfer over to Vancouver.

    Can’t wait for the season to start.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 3, 2014

      You’ve got to work on making your cynicism more realistic. It is entirely likely that Vrbata will score 20+ goals and the Canucks will miss the playoffs by a bunch.

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  17. The Shovel
    July 3, 2014

    Rate ‘m Verbatim.

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  18. sae
    July 3, 2014

    Hmmm, we know this is a goalie graveyard, but isn’t this also the place where top 6 forwards come to disappoint us?

    Booth, Sturm, Demitra, Sundin, Messier, etc.

    Seems our best are usually ones that start as young ones and grow into a top 6.

    How’s that for cynicism?

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    • ajhockey
      July 4, 2014

      Demitra wasn’t really entirely a disappointment.

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  19. zach
    July 3, 2014

    Overall I’m excited about the direction the team is heading. If nothing else, even if they do not improve at all this season, the change is welcome. Its nice to finally see some new faces and hopefully some new young players who will make an impact, if not today but down the road. However, with 4/6 of your top six forwards north of 30… Yikes.

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