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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Signing with the Panthers should prove to be an excellent fit for Vrbata. The 36-year-old veteran recorded 20 goals and 55 points in a bounce-back showing with Arizona last season, and he's probably now in an even better fantasy setup with Florida. Vrbata should slot into a top-six role at even-strength and land on the No. 1 power-play unit. His shooting arsenal should also prove to be a welcomed addition to Florida's bevy of playmakers. Still, it's probably a stretch to bank on significant statistical growth from Vrbata in his age-36 campaign. Another run at 25 goals and 55 points is a more realistic projection.
After exploding for 31 goals and 63 points in his first season with Vancouver, Vrbata took a big step backwards in 2015-16. The veteran managed just 13 goals and 27 points in an injury-riddled campaign that limited him to just 63 games. Currently an RFA, Vrbata remains a decent scorer who could slot in nicely on a team’s second or third line for the right price. While he did post a disastrous minus-30 rating last season and is now 35 years of age, Vrbata is only two years removed from a 30-goal campaign and has hit the 20-goal mark in all but two of his last seven full seasons. The veteran may be on the decline, but he’s a proven goal scorer and a power-play specialist who will give a solid offensive boost to whichever team ends up signing him.
Vrbata was a revelation in his first season with Vancouver, recording 31 goals and 63 points in 79 games. The 34-year-old was an all-around fantasy stud in 2014-15 while skating on the top line with the Sedin twins, scoring nine power-play goals and seven-game-winners among his 267 shots on goal – the 10th-highest total in the NHL. Skating alongside two of the best playmakers in the league, it’s very likely Vrbata has another very productive fantasy season in 2015. While he doesn’t pick up many PIM, the sniper loves to shoot, and his 30-goal potential makes him one of the top wingers in fantasy entering the upcoming season. There's no reason he can't exceed the 30-goal mark once again with those uber-talented linemates feeding him the puck.
After spending the last four seasons with the offensively-challenged Coyotes, Vrbata signed a two-year deal in the summer to join forces with the Canucks. The 33-year-old sniper will get a chance to play with two of the more dynamic playmakers in the game in Henrik and Daniel Sedin, though the twins have both noticed diminished effectiveness the last couple of seasons. Vrbata is coming off a solid 2013-2014 campaign in which he netted 20 goals and 31 assists and was especially dominant on the power play, where his career-high 21 power-play points (10 goals) made Phoenix one of the better teams in the league with the man advantage. With his shot still proving lethal and the chance to play with some more talented linemates in Vancouver, Vrbata could see his point totals climb in his first season as a Canuck.
Vrbata battled a nagging foot injury and streakiness in 34 games last season, posting 28 points but just 12 goals. And three of those goals came in a four-point outburst on the last game of the season. It's highly likely that he missed the offensive talents of the departed Ray Whitney, but will benefit this season with the arrival of Mike Ribeiro. It's not unreasonable to expect Vrbata to return to the 60-point mark in 2012-13 as long as he can stay healthy.
Vrbata had a fantastic 2011-12 campaign with 62 points (35 goals), the highest point production of his career. Injuries hampered his performance in the postseason and with the departure of linemate Ray Whitney, there's some concern that Vrbata's offensive output may dip in 2012-13. That said, he has been good for at least 40 points annually since joining the Coyotes prior to 2009 and that should be his floor next season.
Vrbata had a solid 2010-11 campaign and was rewarded by Phoenix with a three-year, $9 million payday in July. The winger tallied 48 points (19 G, 29 A) through 79 games. Perhaps most important to the Coyotes was Vrbata's 10 power-play scores, an area which the desert dogs struggled in for much of the season. Vrbata will continue to be called on to provide a scoring weapon for the Coyotes and a 20-goal, 30-assist season should be within reach.
After returning to the Coyotes in 2009 via a trade, Vrbata became an integral part of the scoring committee and put up 43 points (24G 19A). During his first tenure with the Coyotes, he was tagged as a streaky player where he would go weeks without scoring a goal. For 2010-11, he has the potential to continue that scoring touch and put up points in the 40-50 range, provided that he can stay consistent.
Vrbata returns to the scene of his most successful professional season after coming back to Phoenix in a trade with Tampa Bay. Vrbata didn't play much hockey between his three stops in Tampa and two Czech Republic club teams last season, but, if he can look at 2008-2009 as a lost year, and return to his 56 point (27 G, 29 A) form from his 2007-2008 campaign with the Coyotes, Phoenix will be much improved.
In fantasy hockey, there are drivers and there are passengers. Drivers put up points no matter who they’re with; passengers get points because of the guy who’s driving. Vrbata is a passenger. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t produce this year. Fantasy pundits seem to be split on him. Several say playing with the Bolts boosts his value; others see just a single goal in his last 22 games last year. He’ll skate with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone so the opportunity will be there. A 30-goal, 60-point season is possible. But he’s a risk.
One of the best acquisitions for the Hawks in 2005-06 as they grabbed Vrbata from the Hurricanes. Accumulated 13 goals and 21 assists in 45 games for the Hawks and could be a sleeper pick this season although his numbers might not be as impressive with the Hawks additions in the offseason.
Vrbata will likely continue to improve his scoring statistics, but probably not by enough to warrant a pick in your draft. Expect something on the order of 30 points and a significantly negative +/- rating.