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Insider Only NHL Free Agency Buzz: Vrbata viewed as a fit in Pittsburgh

Latest Buzz on Vrbata, Markov, Fleishmann, Richards & more
“Complete player” Vrbata could surface as target
If the Penguins don’t resign Tyler Kennedy and fail to bring in Jaromir Jagr, a name who could surface on their radar is Phoenix Coyotes right winger Radim Vrbata, assuming the term (2 years) and price makes sense.
Vrbata is a Dan Bylsma type of player due to his complete two-way game but has some scoring touch and offensive skill to go with his two-way play.
Vrbata, 30, scored 19 goals and 48 points last season for a defensive minded Phoenix Coyotes team. He tallied 24 goals in 2009-2010 and scored a career high 27 goals in 2007-2008.
According to Vrbata’s agent Rich Evans, what makes Vrbata a unique player that could hit the open market is his ability to score at the NHL level but also matchup against the oppositions top forwards.
“He’s proven he can score on the NHL level, while playing for a team that focuses more on defense under coach Dave Tippett, ” Evans told Inside Pittsburgh Sports.com via phone.
Vrbata who has flashed 30 goal potential, never played with an elite playmaking center in Phoenix. Last season, Eric Belanger led all Coyotes centermen with 27 assists.
Vrbata also has shown the ability to produce on the power play. He scored 10 power plays goals in 2010-2011. On the Penguins, that would have tied him for first with Sidney Crosby.
“Radim is sound defensively and very capable of matching up against top forwards, Evans said. “Against Detroit it was {Martin} Hanzal and Radim who matched up against Zetterberg.”
Vrbata is in a situation in Phoenix where he’s had success and some argue that’s the best fit for him based on what happened in Tampa Bay during the 2008-2009 season.
“Tampa Bay has a lot of great players and is a terrific organization under Steve Yzerman but when Radim was in Tampa, it was an incredibly dysfunctional situation. Not just for Radim but for a lot of others, ” Evans said
“He has showed since, he can play well at the NHL level.
Vrbata is a player who would be a great replacement in the short-term for Tyler Kennedy and also an upgrade over Pascal Dupuis. However, he’s coming off a 3 year – $9 million deal.
He’s a player you could plug in a top-6 role, get some power play time and also fill a 3rd line role with Matt Cooke and Jordan Staal if the Penguins were to go that route.
One evaluator on Vrbata: “He fits their style of play and is a more skilled version of {Tyler} Kennedy. Long-term view, Kennedy is the guy you want. Short-term window, Vrbata’s an upgrade for that hockey club.”
Agent: Expecting “great number” of teams interested in Fleischmann
Another client of Evans’ whose a pending free agent is 27 year old winger Tomas Fleishmann. The former Capital is one of the true wildcards this off-season.
Fleishmann who has the ability to play wing and center, had 31 points in 45 games last season, including 21 points in 22 games with the Colorado Avalanche, following his trade there from Washington.
His health though, could scare teams away when it comes to Fleishmann’s prospects of earning a multi-year deal.
Fleischmann missed roughly half of this past season with pulmonary emboli.
The Denver Post reported last Wednesday (6/15) that Fleishmann hasn’t been medically cleared.
However, Evans tells me Fleishmann is cleared to play.
“Health is fine and he’s cleared to play, ” Evans said. “He has been dealing with a specialist for the blood clots and has previously played with medication that he will be playing with. We are not expecting any issues.”
If Fleishmann ($2.6MM salary in 2010-2011) hits the open market, Evans predicts there will be several suitors. “Expecting great numbers of interest, ” Evans said.
Markov, Canadiens not there yet

Reports were circulating yesterday that the Montreal Canadiens and defenseman Andrei Markov were closing in on a 2 year deal worth $11.5 million.
Although discussions are on-going, agent Don Meehan denies that, telling me a deal is not imminent.
One team expected to be in strong pursuit of Markov if he hits the open market is the Detroit Red Wings.
However, look for something to get done between the Canadiens, Markov before July 1. Two sides have been in talks since last week.
Will Lightning Chase Richards?
The Dallas Stars are hopeful to trade the rights of Brad Richards but if your Richards why not wait until July 1? The one team he will surely accept a trade to is the Tampa Bay Lightning, his first choice and a team he’s willing to give a discount to.
The question remains whether the Lightning are truly interested.
Chatter around the league is that if GM Steve Yzerman can move a big contract, he will explore the possibility.
In what’s an annual theme, Yzerman is shopping Ryan Malone who has three years left on his deal. Malone though has a NMC.
The Rangers, Leafs, Sabres and Kings are expected to be in hot pursuit of Richards on July 1.
Ilya Bryzgalov/Flyers expected to get done
It’s a near certainty that a deal between the Flyers and Ilya Bryzgalov will get done before July 1. Unless he’s heading to the KHL, there’s also no viable options in the NHL. Talk around the league is that it will be a 7-9 year deal with a cap hit just a shade under $5 million.
Lightning, Stamkos close to new deal
According to the St. Petersburg Times, 21-year old forward Steven Stamkos, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, believes he is nearing a deal with the club that drafted him first overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
“I think it’s close,” Stamkos told the Times. “I don’t think it’s far off. As close as we are, it’s not something I’m really worried about.”
The deal is expected to carry a cap hit in the $7 million range.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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