Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata will not receive a contract extension before the team’s season opener tonight, sources confirmed late Wednesday.
Vrbata has been the club’s most consistent scoring threat over the past four seasons, notching 90 goals despite missing 14 games of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with a fracture in his foot.
He said in early September that he was hoping to have a deal done before he enters the final year of his three-year, $9-million deal, so that it would not become a distraction. It appears Vrbata and his agent, Rich Evans, are open to further overtures during the season from general manager Don Maloney, but they won’t be approaching Maloney with any further ideas.
Both sides understand that the longer this drags on, the greater the risk becomes. If Vrbata doesn’t produce on a line that is still noticeably missing a playmaker, he could cost himself some leverage and money. However, if Vrbata produces as he has recently, he could choose to test free agency and command a higher price.
Maloney had preliminary discussions with Evans during the offseason and met with him again when the team played a preseason game in Vancouver on Sept. 23.
“He’s been a very good player for us, and we’ve had great value for what we’re paying him,” Maloney said recently. “I feel like we’re always fair in our contracts — my idea of fair and other camps’ idea may be different — but when you look at his numbers, he’s probably earned more.”
The sticking point appears to be how much more, and each side’s lens may be colored by their view of the market. In entering negotiations, the Coyotes might have been using comparables (other players of similar market value) from last season, while Vrbata’s camp believes the market will change dramatically next season when the salary cap is expected to rise.
Vrbata is one of six Coyotes who can become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. The others are forwards David Moss and Paul Bissonnette, defensemen Rostislav Klesla and Derek Morris and goalie Thomas Greiss.