as not immediatley The Florida Panthers have signed winger Radim Vrbata to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. The deal also includes $1.25 million in potential bonuses. The Panthers’ official Twitter account also announced the signing, albeit without the salary details.
Vrbata in Florida: one year, $2.5 M base salary plus $1.25 M in performances bonuses
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 1, 2017
Vrbata, a 36-year-old veteran, is coming off a 55-point season with the Arizona Coyotes that included 20 goals. Four of his goals and 15 of his points came on the power play.
Vrbata has played for several clubs over a long and productive 17-year NHL career. He has played with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes franchise for three separate stints. In 2011-12, he scored a career-high 35 goals for the Coyotes. Three years later, with the Vancouver Canucks before an eventual return to Arizona, Vrbata tallied a career-high 63 points (including 31 goals).
In addition to Vrbata, the Panthers have also signed forward Micheal Haley to a two-year contract, per the club’s Twitter account. The dollar amount is $825,00 per year, according to CapFriendly.
More news – we've agreed to terms with F Micheal Haley on a two-year deal.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) July 1, 2017
Haley, 31, enjoyed what was by far the best NHL season of his career in 2016-17 with the San Jose Sharks. Prior to last year, the most NHL games Haley had ever played in a single season was 27 with the New York Islanders in 2010-11. With the Sharks last season, the gritty, pugilistic forward appeared in 58 contests, earning the trust of head coach Peter DeBoer despite not quite fitting the archetype of the modern-day NHL depth forward.
Haley provided some toughness on the Sharks’ fourth line, compiling 128 penalty minutes. He also chipped in two goals and 10 assists.
Roles With Panthers
Vrbata is a right-handed shot and should help the Panthers at least somewhat make up for the head-scratching loss of 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault in the short-term. Vrbata is a scorer who will get plenty of time on the power play and likely slot into the Panthers’ second or third line at even strength.
Vrbata and the recently-signed Evgeny Dadonov should help the Panthers fill the voids left by the departures of Marchessault and the bought-out Jussi Jokinen, as well as Jaromir Jagr, whose days in Florida appear to be over.
Even though Vrbata has had a fruitful career, the Panthers just have to hope that his second time playing for a team in the state of Florida goes better than the first. In 2008, Vrbata left the Coyotes for the first time to sign a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was not a good fit for him, as put up just six points (three goals and three assists) in 18 games.
Circumstances in his personal life weighed on him, as his wife was experiencing difficulties with a pregnancy. The Lightning allowed him to return to the Czech Republic as a result before they ultimately traded him back to the Coyotes after the 2008-09 season. Since then, though, Vrbata has rebounded and has been a very productive player. He should continue that level of production for the Panthers.
Haley, per Florida general manager Dale Tallon, “fills a need for our club and will help us get back to playing with the sort of passion and grit that will help us win.” His signing represents a stark contrast from the analytical approach the Panthers employed last season.
Largely because of injuries and underperforming players, the Panthers did not meet expectations in 2016-17. The removal of Tom Rowe as head coach and the reinstatement of Tallon as GM represent a shift back to more traditional methods, for better or for worse. In any event, the Panthers seem to have some stability in their approach and a clear vision with Tallon at the helm. The hope is that Haley’s intangible qualities of leadership and toughness have a positive effect not only on his performance but that of others players as well.
Interestingly, both Vrbata and Haley have ties to new Panthers head coach Bob Boughner. Boughner played for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003-04 while Vrbata was there. He was also an assistant coach with the Sharks for the past two seasons, overlapping with Haley’s tenure in San Jose.
Tom has been with The Hockey Writers for almost four years. After previously covering the LA Kings and the New York Rangers, Tom now covers the Anaheim Ducks.
While in college at Clemson University, the 2016 college football national champions, Tom wrote game summaries and feature articles for the official team website of the Greenville Drive, a Class-A minor-league baseball team and affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Tom is happy to be able to continue to fulfill his passions for sports and writing with THW.