It was July 1, 2008 and Radim Vrbata was just coming off of a career year in Phoenix. His 56 points in 76 games played — 27 goals and 29 assists — were career bests, his role on the team was that of a top-liner, and he was in line for a healthy raise from the highest bidder. Soon, Tampa Bay would come calling, and Vrbata would be out of the desert and off to Florida.
Then Tampa Bay general manager Jay Feaster signed Vrbata for three seasons at a total value of $9 million. For a player that hadn’t had a permanent NHL home for more than two seasons, it was looking like Vrbata had a place to settle in for the foreseeable future. As the season got underway, however, it was clear that something wasn’t quite right with the Czech winger.