Through all of their ownership woes, the Phoenix Coyotes have managed to build up a solid core group of players out in the desert. Now with stable ownership, they stand a much better chance of actually being able to retain that talent over the next several years.
Priority no. 1 as far as that retention goes is forward Radim Vrbata. Set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, Vrbata has already stated his desire to work out a contract extension with the Coyotes. Given how much of an offensive force he’s been for them in the last few years, the Coyotes would be wise to pursue such an extension.
Don Maloney knows that, which is why the two sides have already opened talks about a new deal, ahead of when he’ll hit the market as a free agent. Vrbata has seen the best years of his career since joining the Coyotes, and has been a key offensive piece.
Vrbata has been a bargain since joining the Coyotes back in 2009-10. His deal that expires at the end of the year is a three-year pact, that paid him a total of $9 million. Given the offense that he has brought to the mix for Phoenix, a $3 million cap hit is an absolute steal.
While Vrbata struggled to gain traction in 2013, ultimately finding his rhythm towards the end of the year, his 2011-12 was among the best offensive performances in the league. He tallied 35 goals, which was a higher total than many of the elite players in the game. Potentially playing next to Mike Ribeiro this season bodes well for another season with that type of output.
Which is why the Coyotes should look at extending Vrbata now, rather than later. Get him locked up prior to the season, sign him to a two or three-year extension, and keep the price tag low. Maloney has done an outstanding job of signing players to favorable deals, and it should continue with Vrbata. It should only be a matter of time before the details are hammered out and Vrbata is in the desert for the long term.