Jaromir Jagr was admired by many fans of the Florida Panthers for the past two and a half seasons. One can argue though that we saw Jagr’s weakness during the 2015-16 playoffs when he looked more like his age. With Bob Boughner stepping into the head coaching carousel, he preaches a faster, shoot-first mentality out of his forwards.
Maybe the addition of unrestricted free-agent Radim Vrbata will serve it’s purpose by the end of the season.
When looking at Vrbata’s stats, he is known as a consistent 40-50 point scorer when healthy. That’s with playing on a lesser-skilled Arizona Coyotes team for six out of the past eight seasons. Vrbata had a iFenwick (shots + missed shots) rating of 13.20 last season, which was his highest rating since the 2012-13 lockout shortened season (2011-12, if we’re talking full seasons). In comparison, Jagr had a iFenwick of 9.56 last season. That statistic shows that the Czech Republic native has a shoot-first mentality, which is exactly what Florida needs. Vrbata, 36, could arguably put up more than his points average, provided Father Time doesn’t catch up to him this year.
If nothing else, the addition of Vrbata could serve as a stopgap for a player like Jayce Hawrlyk to have a half-season of development with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds before getting a permanent call-up to the NHL. After all, Vrbata has been a popular subject for NHL GM’s to discuss for the past few trade deadlines.
Where the Panthers truly gain from Vrbata over Jagr is in the speed department. While Vrbata doesn’t have the legs of a 25-year-old, he can definitely turn on the jets when he needs to. It was quite obvious that the older Jagr did not have the legs and stamina to compete in the playoffs against the New York Islanders after a grueling 82-game schedule.
Another area where the Cats potentially gain an upgrade is on the power-play. Vrbata scored an extra four primary assists on the power-play than Jagr. That could be huge boost for the second power-play unit with Vincent Trocheck. If the power-play gets a boost from this signing, it will be seen as a win-win for Florida.
While losing Jaromir Jagr was going to happen inevitably, it allows the young core of the Panthers to step up and take their game and leadership of the team to the next level. A player like Radim Vrbata, with his long string of personal success, could be just what the doctor ordered as a complement this season in Sunrise.