Radim Vrbata's agent says his client wants to play in the NHL; Lightning GM Brian Lawton gives him permission to search for a deal
Rich Evans, agent for Lightning right wing Radim Vrbata, said his client "100 percent" wants to return to the NHL next season. That leaves Vrbata in a bit of a pickle as Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton said Vrbata does not fit into the team's plans, and Vrbata will end up in AHL Norfolk if he cannot be moved to another team.
Toward that end, Lawton said he has given Evans permission to search the league for a team that will pick up Vrbata's contract that pays $3 million for the next two years.
"He won't fit into our plans," Lawton said. "There won't be a roster spot for him. He has the right to come back and if he wants to he can, and he'll end up in Norfolk."
If he does, Vrbata will still be paid $3 million, he just won't count toward Tampa Bay's salary cap number.
Vrbata was a disappointment last season after signing a three-year, $9 million free agent contract. He had three goals and six points in 18 games for the Lightning before returning to his native Czech Republic to finish out the season. Evans said that decision was Vrbata's and was fueled by the difficult pregnancy of Vrbata's wife, Petra, who in March gave birth to a healthy son, Krystof.
Vrbata had 12 goals, 17 points in 18 games for two different teams in the Czech Republic's elite league. The bonus for the Lightning was that Vrbata stopped receiving checks from Tampa Bay while he was in Europe and saved the team both straight payroll and salary cap money.
Now, Evans said, Vrbata is ready to return.
"One-hundred percent," Evans said. "He's an NHL player. He wants to play in the best league in the world."
Vrbata, 28, could have some market value. He scored 27 goals in 76 games for the Coyotes in 2007-08 before being signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay. The Lightning probably doesn't want much in return to get him off the roster.
"Every player has to prove himself," Evans said when asked if his client needs to re-establish his reputation. "I don't know how he's thinking in that regard. I only know his intention is to play in the NHL."