Thursday, June 9, 2016

Radim Vrbata: 3 Autographed Cards

I had a pleasant surprise in the mail today, my sixth return out of seven packages sent this season, one of four sent on November 10th, making for a 212-day return:
That's pending free agent Radim Vrbata, coincidentally the 212th player selected at the 1999 NHL draft, as the Colorado Avalanche selected him in the seventh round. In terms of "past-the-second-round" picks, that puts him with regular NHLers Niclas Havelid (83rd), Mike Comrie (91st), Chris Kelly (94th), Brian McGrattan (104th), Ryan Malone (115th), Fedor Fedorov (182nd), Ivan Rachunek (187th), Martin Erat (191st), Tom Kostopoulos (204th), and Henrik Zetterberg (210th).

If he plays in some 70 games next season, he will hit the 1000-game milestone, and he's 56 points away from 600, though after a season in which he scored just 13 goals with 14 assists for 27 points in 63 games, I would understand any doubt that he could hit those marks.

However, he's still just one season removed from a 31-goal and a career-high 63-point output, the goals total being his second-highest career total behind the 35 he put up with the Phoenix Coyotes in the not-so-distant 2011-12 season. There is still some buzz around him, particularly if he's willing to take the same $5M cap hit he had these last two seasons... or less.

At this point, we have a clear idea of what he can bring to a hockey club: though he's 6'1" and roughly 200 pounds, he plays like a small, skilled winger; he can be counted on for some 20-25 goals, and if he reaches 30, that's just a pleasant bonus. He gets just as many assists as he does goals, so on the offensive front, the puck is likely to move towards the right direction when he has it on his stick. He's best suited to play on a skilled team's second line.

He's 34, however, so that leaves teams with two options: sign him to a short-term deal before he starts slowing down, or sign him to a three-or-four-year deal before he reaches the fatal age of 35, where players can no longer retire or change leagues while taking their cap hits with them (see the Pavel Datsyuk situation with the Detroit Red Wings).

In the meantime, let's reflect on the recent past, first with these two cards of him playing in Arizona:
On the left is the gold variant of card #362 from Panini's 2012-13 Score set, showing him wearing the Coyotes' burgundy (home) uniform; on the right is card #388 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set, showing him wearing the 'Yotes' white (away) uniform, complete with alternate captain's "A" on the chest.

He signed both in black sharpie with his jersey number (17) tagged at the end, just like he did on card #45 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 MVP set:
On it, he's wearing the Canucks' full-retro/alternate blue uniform with the awful "stick" logo. He'll join Bill Muckalt and Ryan Kesler as representatives of #17 in my Canucks Numbers Project.

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