Vancouver Canucks

PHT interviews Don Maloney, who knows he has a big trade chip in Vermette

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Arizona GM Don Maloney understands the quality he’s got in Antoine Vermette.

So too, it seems, do a number of other NHL clubs.

“Antoine has been a good player for us, continues to be a good player for us,” Maloney told PHT on Monday. “There are a lot of teams interested in him.”

The 32-year-old will be a prized target leading up to this year’s trade deadline. Vermette is remarkably well-rounded — leading the Coyotes in scoring, winning draws at a 55 percent clip, known for his solid two-way game — and plays the middle, which is vitally important given the league-wide arms race at that particular position.

“We all know hard it is to find center ice men in this league,” Maloney noted.

It’s also hard to find ones with Vermette’s versatility.

He led Arizona in goals last year, with 24, and finished 14th in Selke voting (tied with Pavel Datsyuk) for the NHL’s top defensive forward. He was the only Coyotes forward to average more than two minutes per game on both the power play and penalty kill. He also led all Arizona forwards in blocked shots (71), finished with 90 hits in 82 games and played the wing when called upon.

So yeah, versatile.

All of which begs the question — why would Arizona trade him?

Well, one, the Coyotes believe they have a top-flight center waiting in the wings in Max Domi. The 13th overall pick at the 2013 draft didn’t make the team this season out of training camp, but is still viewed as the club’s pivot of the future, possibly next year.

“Domi’s not going to be a bottom-line player for us,” Maloney said, shooting down the idea of Domi playing a similar role to what fellow ’13 draftee Bo Horvat’s filling in Vancouver. “We need him to be a top-six forward.

“We have lots of guys that can play the third or fourth line. Our problem is top one or two line guys, and that’s where we see Max in the future.”

Two, it’s not like Maloney wants to trade Vermette.

“I think Antoine likes Arizona, likes his role, likes his coach,” Maloney said when asked how he’d try and sell the player on re-signing.

But the market suggests Vermette’s in for a raise on his current (and affordable) $3.75 million cap hit and, if the Coyotes can’t afford to keep him, they might as well get as much in return as they can.

Of course, ownership uncertainty casts a shadow on most things in Arizona, and the Vermette situation is no different.

“Since day one we’ve been waiting on our ownership to be restructured,” Maloney said, “and we’ll continue to wait on that, and once it gets restructured we’ll see whether there’s an opportunity to re-sign him or not.”

While Vermette re-upping with the Coyotes remains a possibility, carrots dangle elsewhere for both parties; the Coyotes could net a bounty of assets in return via trade, while Vermette could join a Stanley Cup contender and still hit free agency. That’s key, since on a potential UFA list that’s light on centers, he’d rank right near the top of available guys.

(This could, theoretically, also be Vermette’s last kick at a significant payday, which is something else to consider.)

In light of all this, Vermette doesn’t seem long for the desert. Even Maloney said he’s unsure what the future will hold in terms of organizational direction and philosophy, which makes the “re-sign here!” pitch difficult.

“It’s been a little bit of a holding pattern in the sense of you always want to know when the majority owner comes in, what he’s thinking,” Maloney explained. “Is it more of a rebuild? Is it more of a infusion of more resources available?

“So we’ve been waiting on that.”

Related: Vermette is the Coyotes’ Bergeron, says Tippett

Canucks hold Hansen out of Monday’s game, call for more tests

The Vancouver Canucks are erring on the side of safety with Jannik Hansen, opting to put him through further tests instead of allowing him to play against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.

Here is the full Canucks release:

In the process of reviewing Hansen’s test results the Vancouver Canucks in consultation with specialists have determined that further evaluation is required before he is cleared to play. Despite all tests being reported as normal, additional tests were ordered in the best interests of Hansen’s health and safety. As a result, Hansen will not dress in the Canucks game versus Arizona tonight.

The 28-year-old collapsed on the Canucks bench this weekend, and even though he jokingly described it as “taking a quick nap,” Vancouver seems to be leaning on the safe side with this situation.

Here’s video of that frightening moment:

Vancouver’s schedule is friendly to Hansen getting back on his feet, as the Canucks don’t play again until Sunday and only has three more games (tonight included) in 2014. Even if there are some setbacks, it wouldn’t cost him or his team too many nights.

Hansen has eight goals and 13 points in 32 games so far this season.

Goalie nods: Rinne vs. Bobrovsky is your matchup of the night

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All the latest from the crease…

Bob vs. Peks

Scintillating goalie battle tonight in Columbus as Sergei Bobrovsky takes on Pekka Rinne.

Rinne, who’s returned to form this season after battling with a hip injury all of last year, has won four of his last five with a 1.77 GAA, .941 save percentage and one shutout. He’s been great all season long and is an early Vezina candidate, if not the leader.

Not to be outdone, Bobrovsky is putting forth an effort that should have him in the conversation for December’s first star of the month. The Russian ‘tender is 8-0-1 this month with a 2.01 GAA and .940 save percentage, one of the big reasons the Jackets have rallied from their awful start to the season to climb within seven points of Washington for the final playoff spot in the East.

Elsewhere…

Sens at Caps: Craig Anderson vs. Braden Holtby

Pens at Panthers: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Roberto Luongo

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Ryan Miller

Sharks at Ducks: Antti Niemi vs. Frederik Andersen

Flames at Kings: Jonas Hiller for Calgary, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Hansen calls mid-game collapse ‘a quick nap on the bench’

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Vancouver forward Jannik Hansen addressed a scary-looking situation with some levity on Monday, calling his mid-game collapse against Calgary over the weekend a “quick nap on the bench.”

Watch here:

Hansen, 28, slumped over on the Vancouver bench following a heavy hit from Flames d-man Dennis Wideman. Teammates frantically called for medical attention upon seeing Hansen collapse, but he quickly came to before a physician arrived.

The Danish forward didn’t return to the game and missed Sunday’s practice, but will be back in the lineup tonight when the Canucks host the Coyotes at Rogers Arena. Hansen has eight goals and 13 points in 32 games this season.

Kassian admits he’s ‘underachieved,’ doesn’t like hearing the trade rumors

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Zack Kassian is aware of the trade rumors, and he’s not particularly happy about them.

“You never like to hear that,” the big Canucks winger told The Province newspaper this weekend. “I love to play for Vancouver. Is it true? I don’t know. I know I’ve underachieved so far and from being the guy I was last year for the last stretch of the season.”

Kassian, currently out of the lineup with a finger injury, has just two goals in 17 games. The Canucks had hoped prior to the season that the 23-year-old could play in the top six, a hope that was buoyed after he finished last season with 12 points in his last 17 games.

Another potential factor in all this is Kassian’s off-ice conduct. Remember that the previous management regime in Vancouver had to talk to him about “being a professional away from the rink,” and the current general manager, former Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning, was the one who uttered the phrase, “We’re not babysitters,” about Tyler Seguin.

Granted, there’s no evidence that Kassian’s professionalism has been an issue this season, and the Canucks would certainly be taking a risk if they traded him away. Many have noted the similarities between Kassian and former Vancouver power forward Todd Bertuzzi, who didn’t hit his stride until after the Islanders traded the “23-year-old underachiever.”