The Nashville Predators finished 19th in scoring in the NHL this season, their second-straight campaign failing to qualify for the playoffs.
This offseason, the Predators will be looking to add some offense to their roster through free agency and we’ve looked at the top two candidates they should consider earlier this week. Behind Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny and Minnesota Wild winger Matt Moulson, Nashville may be able to find scoring at a reasonable price in Phoenix Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata. The Czech was the Coyotes second-leading scorer this season with 51 points (20 goals) and once tallied 35 goals in 2011-2012.
Why Vrbata would be good option in Nashville: At 32 years old, Vrbata is probably a few years removed from the prime of his career, but the forward’s numbers are yet to trail off dramatically. Perhaps most encouraging for Nashville is the success Vrbata has found offensively while playing in the defensive style instilled by Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. The forward crossed the 40-point plateau four times in Phoenix and should be able to do it again on Nashville’s similarly built team. Vrbata has a quick release and a natural scoring touch, but like Moulson, has trouble creating opportunities for himself one-on-one. Also similar to Moulson, Vrbata will be looking for a raise from the $3 million per season he’s been making, but should sign at a reasonable rate of around $4.5 million. The Predators top six forward group would be upgraded with the addition of Vrbata, even if he isn’t one of the top tier free agents in July.
Why he’ll be available: Bleacher Report listed Vrbata as their No. 1 value free agent signing last month and argued that the Czech still has something left in the tank. The Coyotes are set to have three forwards over the age of 32 making more than $4.5 million next season (including former Predators winger Martin Erat), and may not be interested in keeping another player over 32 on their depth chart. The same Bleacher Report article also lists Nashville as a potential landing spot for Vrbata, saying the veteran would be a good fit in the Music City.
Conclusion: Predators general manager David Poile took some heat this past offseason for signing several free agents over 30, but he may be wise to try it one more time. The four-time, 20-goal scorer might be intrigued to play in the more offensive style of Predators head coach Peter Laviolette and Nashville should give him a shot if they miss on other top talent.