A 36-year-old veteran can bring a lot of experience and leadership to a younger group of players, like the Florida Panthers. However, when the team ownership has made it clear it is counting of young players like forwards Aleksander Barkov (22), Vincent Trocheck (24), Jonathan Huberdeau (24) and Nick Bjugstad (25), Radim Vrbata knows the end of his career is near.
“This is probably my last season,” the veteran forward said to Fanrag Sports on Monday. “Hockey-wise and how the body feels and family-wise with the kids, I’m not saying it 100 percent, but this is probably where it’s going to go. I’ll be 37 in the summer so I think it’s time.”
Vrbata is now averaging just 13:36 of ice time, the ninth highest mark among forwards on the team, and the lowest average of his career. In 27 games this season, he has recorded four goals and 12 points thus far.
“There’s not too many guys at this age still playing. You see what is happening around the league. I’m in Florida with so many guys that are retired already, and they’re even younger than me. I’m happy that I’m still here but I’m OK with it coming to an end.”
Vrbata was selected in the seventh round, 212th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1999 Entry Draft. The three-time Arizona Coyotes also played for the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vancouver Canucks.
If he does indeed hang up the skates, the veteran does not see himself back on the ice. But a role behind the bench is in the cards...
"The first year would probably be adjusting to life in Czech for me and my wife and mostly the kids,” he said. “Even though we go there every summer, we just spend two months there and then go to the states or Canada. It will be a little different.
“That first year, for sure, I want to take a break from everything and maybe coach my son’s (Krystof, 8) hockey team.”
Are you disappointed to see his career come to an end?