Three weeks ago, we welcomed Antoine Vermette to the trade rumor mill on the heels of a report from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, which explained the “in limbo” Vermette was “trying really hard” not to think about his uncertain future.
Today, the Arizona Republic dug deeper into Vermette’s murky situation:
The Coyotes hope they’re able to retain Vermette, whom they initially acquired via trade in 2012. Since an extension wasn’t reached before the season, contract talks have been tabled for now.
[GM Don] Maloney is also awaiting for clarity on the team’s budget, which he expects will come once Andrew Barroway’s addition to the ownership group is approved by the NHL.
“He’s an important player for us, and we hope we can make a deal that makes sense for both parties,” Maloney said.
Vermette’s situation is complex. It’s no surprise the Coyotes want to keep him; he’s a talented, two-way center that’s durable (hasn’t missed a game in six years) and still only 32 years old. He led Arizona in goals last year, with 24, and played nearly 20 minutes a night.
He’s been very good this season as well. Vermette currently leads the Coyotes in scoring (16 points in 23 games) and has reportedly drawn interest from a number of teams across the league as the arms race for center depth continues.
And that’s the rub.
Heading into free agency this summer, Vermette will likely get a raise on the $3.75 million he made annually on his last deal. That could put Arizona in a difficult spot — aside from an uncertain financial future and new ownership coming aboard, the club could finally go all-in on the proposed youth movement Maloney wanted to implement this season, but pulled back on prior to the start of the campaign.
The Coyotes have spent two recent first-round picks on centers — Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson — and it’s possible both could be with the team next season… if there are spots available. Martin Hanzal probably isn’t going anywhere (under contract through ’17) and Sam Gagner is on the books through 2016, which means Vermette might have more value to Arizona as a trade chip at the deadline, rather than a roster player beyond this season.