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Making the case: Vaclav Prospal

The Lightning have bought out the contract of Vaclav Prospal. After his third stint in Tampa, the well-rounded left winger has been cut lose and will now be a great (and probably cheap) addition to some team’s 2nd line.

Enter the Nashville Predators.

It’s no secret that the Preds need desperate help in the scoring department and that the target player is a 2nd line left winger to skate along side David Legwand and Martin Erat. Both are consistent 50-point guys and, with the addition of a veteran winger like Prospal, the chemistry could equate into something special. Afterall, Erat’s been waiting for a fellow Czech to play with for a quite a long time. Sounds funny to some, but that just might be the key to unlock his true potential.

Prospal is a 12 year veteran that’s played for five different teams (including stops in Tampa three times and in Philadelphia twice). He’s a consistent 50-60 point scorer who’s never played less than 74 games in any one season since finding a full-time role in the NHL back in 1998-99. He’s had 80, 79 and 71 point seasons and is a four-time 20+ goal scorer, with his career high coming just two seasons ago (33).

He’s also an asset on the power play, having tallied 29 points on the man advantage back in 2002-03 and 27 points in 2005-06. He loves to shoot the puck as well. His 194 shots on goal last season would’ve been a mere two shy of the Predators’ team leader Jason Arnott (among forwards).

Did we mention he’s Czech?

On a team where his “marquee value” has been lost in recent years with guys like Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis stealing the spotlight, Prospal managed to be a quiet scoreboard leader during his stints in Tampa. His 45 points in all 82 games was certainly a disappointment last season, not to mention his team low -20 rating, but let’s be honest, the Lightning organization was in shambles last year. (Some would argue they still are). Head Coach John Tortorella was fired, replacement Barry Melrose was shown the door only a few games in, there was an ownership change the off-season before, Richards and All-Star defenseman Dan Boyle were shipped out to clear cap space and, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Lecavalier has been constantly rumored to be on the move.

That’s quite a lot to swallow in the past 18 months if you’re a “new” member of the Lightning franchise.

Prospal, 34, still has some gas left in the tank. And teamed with Legwand and Erat he might even be able to put up a couple more 60 point seasons. How great would it be to look at the Preds roster and see the entire top line with 70+ points each and then entire 2nd line with 60+ points each.

Prospal could be a bargain as well. He was slated to make $3.5 million/season in the three remaining years on his deal with the Lightning but now, thanks to the buyout, he could be signed for much less. Possibly even around $2 million/year.

A 60-point guy for $2 million? Yes please.

There are a few downsides to Prospal in a Nashville sweater though. The first is that it’s not a sure thing that he won’t command the same type of money he was making in Tampa. Just because the Bolts couldn’t afford to pay him that kind of scratch doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. Frankly, $3.5 million is a little out of the Preds ballpark. Secondly, he’s never been a solid two-way player, as evidenced by his career -61 rating and his mere two seasons registering a positive plus/minus rating. Thirdly, his worst season statistically since 2000-01 was last year. At 34 years old, is he on the decline? Lastly, he’s basically a journeyman NHLer, which raises the question, why has he been traded four different times?

The bottom line with Prospal (or, as fans in Tampa would call him, “the other Vinny”) is this: what’s the happy medium? For anything more than $2.5 million, Nashville should probably pass but, for anything below $2.5, the Predators should have no problem bringing in a consistently healthy, consistent 50-pt scorer that’s a natural left wing.

Who’s also Czech.


This is the fourth in a series that will be doing on the available UFA’s.


PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Sandford (Getty Images)