Radim Vrbata signed with the Vancouver Canucks for a few reasons, but a “chance to play with the Sedins” was the one he mentioned first in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.
“If you play with players like the Sedins, you know you’ll get your chances,” Vrbata said. “I was looking for a good fit.”
Shortly thereafter, on another conference call, Canucks general manager Jim Benning delivered a similar message: “I think he’s a good fit with the Sedins.”
A right-handed shot, Vrbata scored a career-high 35 goals for the Coyotes in 2011-12. He scored 20 times last season, including 10 times with the man advantage. In theory, he’s the kind of cerebral winger — a guy who can play the give-and-go game — who should, in fact, be a fit with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.
When asked what he liked about Vrbata, Benning mentioned his “real good hockey sense and hands.” He also likes that Vrbata has “finish,” something the Canucks had very little of in 2013-14, when they had the 11th-most shots in the NHL, and the 28th-most goals.
But the signing of Vrbata does beg a rather big question in Vancouver — what do the Canucks do with the Sedins’ regular winger, Alex Burrows, a 33-year-old who has three years remaining on an $18 million contract, one that comes complete with a no-trade clause?
Benning suggested Burrows could be moved to Vancouver’s second line, with new addition Nick Bonino in the middle and either Zack Kassian or Jannik Hansen on the other wing.
“We want to have balance amongst our four lines,” Benning said. “We want to have scoring depth.”
Key word there: depth.
Looking at a Canucks’ roster that’s been bolstered by the additions of Bonino, as well as forwards Derek Dorsett and Linden Vey, this year’s training camp should be a competitive one, with no shortage of youngsters (and veterans) hungry to show Benning and new coach Willie Desjardins something. At this point, prospects Nicklas Jensen, Bo Horvat, and Hunter Shinkaruk are far from guaranteed a spot on the opening-day roster.
As for Burrows, well, he’s got a lot to prove, too, after a nightmarish 2013-14 that saw him fight injuries and bad luck, all while playing in a John Tortorella-coached system that Burrows would only call “a little different, that’s for sure.”
It was reported in May — after Tortorella was fired — that the coach had pushed management to buy out the undrafted former ECHLer who’s had three 20-plus-goal seasons, plus one 35-goal season, while playing with the Sedins.
At the very least, Burrows should have plenty of motivation on his side.