Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  By CRAIG MORGAN  |  Last updated 9/10/13
GLENDALE, Ariz. Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said Monday that the team has had preliminary conversations about a contact extension for forward Radim Vrbata, who is entering the final year of a three-year 9 million deal. That is significant news in its own right, although nothing is imminent. But check out what Maloney said about the possibility of extending Vrbata. "Hes been a very good player for us and weve had great value for what were paying him, Maloney said. I feel like were always fair in our contracts -- my idea of fair and other camps' idea may be different -- but when you look at his numbers, hes probably earned more. Maloney has a remarkable penchant for candor but this was groundbreaking stuff even for him. When is the last time you heard a GM admit hes not paying a guy enough as he enters a contract negotiation? The thing is, Maloney is right. When you look at Vrbatas stats the past four seasons 90 goals and 181 points in 272 games its clear that hes provided skill and scoring on a team starved for such production. But when you remember what he did playing on a line with Ray Whitney two seasons ago (35 goals) when the Coyotes went to the Western Conference final, you realize just how much he can add if the franchise just puts some skill alongside him. He adds a skill level thats so hard to find out there and hes a really good teammate, coach Dave Tippett said. He just fits well with us. Check out this chart of point-producers over the past two seasons. Look at the company Vrbata (No. 62) is keeping and then look up comparable contracts. Its a remarkable feat for a guy chosen 212th overall in the 1999 NHL Draft. Its why Whitney said last season that Vrbatas contract is well below market price, and its why Maloney says Vrbata has likely earned a bigger payday. Thats a good thing, I guess, Vrbata said, sheepishly. You always want to be paid what is fair. The question is, how much more whats fair? Maloney added. The Coyotes just threw an awful lot of money into retaining Shane Doan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Maloney and Tippett, while acquiring center Mike Ribeiro. Ownership stability is one thing, but the Coyotes are probably never going to be a free-spending team. They have to stay within a budget. Make no mistake: Vrbata knows his market value and he wants a good deal. But he also tested the waters with other teams and found them to be bad fits, including stops in Carolina, Chicago and a disastrous 2008-09 season in Tampa Bay that was marred with poor, impulsive decisions by ownership, a dip in his own confidence and wife Petras complications during pregnancy that led him to ask the Lightning for a release to return home to the Czech Republic. Its not always about the money, Vrbata said. You want to be paid fair, but sometimes its better to take less and be in a good situation. Im living proof of that when you look at what happened to me in Tampa. Phoenix is the place where Ive had the most success, where we like it as a family and where I like it as a hockey player. All the people around the team, Tip, Don, Shane (Doan) and the players, they make it a great situation for me. I wanted to be here even when the ownership situation was in limbo. With this new ownership group in place, it makes it even more appealing. In a perfect world, Vrbata would like to have an extension completed before the season begins so that it doesnt become a distraction, but he understands that may not happen. Even so, the additions of Ribeiro and top pick Max Domi have him excited about possible line combinations and yes, playing alongside a play-maker who will allow him to finish like he did with Whitney and longtime linemate Martin Hanzal. I always liked Mike as a player, he said. When I went and played junior in Canada, I played against him my first year, and hes still the same player -- very smart with great skill and a great hockey mind. I skated with (Max) last week twice, and I know it was only a scrimmage before a camp, but you can see that he is smart, skilled and thinks the game right. Vrbata is fully healed from a broken foot that cost him 14 games last season. And he he has stopped shuddering over the bizarre allergic reaction he had to an antibiotic in the 2012 postseason. He arrived in the Valley last week and admits he feels kid-like excitement over all the good changes the franchise has undergone in the past four months. This is what weve been waiting for the last four years, he said. Im ready to start. Follow Craig Morgan in Twitter
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