Did Coyotes balk at keeping Vrbata — for the same price?

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Interesting tidbit from Fox Sports Arizona about Radim Vrbata’s departure from the Coyotes:

Vrbata’s departure from Arizona was frustrating for the 33-year-old Czech wing because he wanted to stay. Vrbata would not discuss specifics of the negotiations, but it is believed he would have stayed with the Coyotes if he could have landed a four-year deal without a raise — at the same average annual salary of $3 million.

Mired in a messy and costly buyout of center Mike Ribeiro, and still only in Year 1 of the new ownership, the Coyotes could not afford that price despite Vrbata’s past production.

“It’s no secret I wanted to get it done even before the (2013-14) season started,” said Vrbata, who had 20 goals last season. “I don’t think I’m a good free-agent player. Some guys enjoy it; I don’t enjoy it at all. It’s on my mind too much.”

Vrbata was a pretty consistent scorer over the last five years for a Coyotes club that had issues putting pucks in the net; he scored a career-high 35 during the 2011-12 campaign (leading the league in game-winning goals) and has been extremely productive in the first of a two-year, $10 million deal with Vancouver, scoring six goals and 13 points in 15 games. Granted, those numbers have been spiked by playing on a top line with the Sedin twins — “we’ve been on the same page on and off the ice,” he explained — though he did have chemistry in Arizona playing alongside fellow Czech Martin Hanzal.

Which begs the question: What was Arizona thinking in letting him go?

It could’ve been about term. A four year deal would’ve kept Vrbata on the books ’til he was 37, a dicey proposition for a club that has publicized financial constraints. It’s also unclear exactly what direction the Coyotes were planning to take this summer; as we’ve written about extensively on PHT, the organization bounced back and forth between a youth movement (with the understanding the playoffs would be a longshot) to a team that would rely on its veterans (with GM Don Maloney flipping the script, saying the Coyotes “need to be a playoff team.”)

Whatever the case, the decision to pass on re-signing the Czech sniper doesn’t look good right now. Arizona is struggling to score goals — 2.44 per game, 23rd in the NHL — while Vrbata is on pace to score 30-plus