Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said Saturday that the team has had preliminary conversations about a contact extension for forward Radim Vrbata who is entering the final year of a three-year $9 million deal.

That is significant news in its own right although nothing is imminent. But check out what Maloney said about the possibility of extending Vrbata.

"He’s been a very good player for us and we’ve had great value for what we’re paying him” Maloney said. “I feel like we’re always fair in our contracts -- my idea of fair and other camps' idea may be different -- but when you look at his numbers he’s probably earned more.”

Maloney has a remarkable penchant for candor but this was groundbreaking stuff even for him. When is the last time you heard a GM admit he’s not paying a guy enough as he enters a contract negotiation?

The thing is Maloney is right. When you look at Vrbata’s stats the past four seasons – 90 goals and 181 points in 272 games – it’s clear that he’s provided skill and scoring on a team starved for such production. But when you remember what he did playing on a line with Ray Whitney two seasons ago (35 goals) when the Coyotes went to the Western Conference final you realize just how much he can add if the franchise just puts some skill alongside him.

“He adds a skill level that’s so hard to find out there and he’s a really good teammate” coach Dave Tippett said. “He just fits well with us.”