One of this year’s biggest trade deadline prizes will undoubtedly be Arizona center Antoine Vermette, the 32-year-old center that’s a UFA at season’s end.
Yesterday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested the Coyotes were “creating an auction,” for Vermette, a talented two-way guy that leads the team in scoring with 21 points through 31 games. Which begs the question — would Washington get in on the bidding?
In terms of fit, Vermette’s like a glove. The Caps need a quality No. 2 center in the worst way behind Nicklas Backstrom, someone that can provide stability and keep Barry Trotz from constantly rotating through middle men. (Trotz’s latest move? Bumping Michael Latta up to center Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson, while dropping Evgeni Kuznetsov to the fourth line between Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle.)
Washington’s in we-gotta-make-the-playoffs mode and, at the time of writing, are holding the eighth and final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. The race figures to only get more difficult from here on in — just ask Trotz, who acknowledged that increased difficulty when discussing the decision to send another center, Andre Burakovsky, down to AHL Hershey.
“We’ve talked it out,” Trotz said, per the Post. “I’m not hiding anything from him. I still believe he’s going to be a big piece of the organization for a long, long time and he’s going to play center ice. That’s not going to change. He’s a young guy that you’re getting to that level where it’s hard to maintain for young guys, strength-wise, game-wise, just the speed, everything.
“It gets ramped up. I say one percent for every game for the first 20, then it ramps up again. We just want to have him reset a little bit, then when we get him in, we’ll use him.”
Which brings us back to Vermette.
If the Caps want to bolster their center depth (which is usually in a state of flux, but generally includes Latta, Burakovsky, Kuznetsov and Eric Fehr), they might want to call Coyotes GM Don Maloney. Vermette wins draws at a 54 percent clip — which would be second on the Caps, to Backstrom — and has bonafide playoff experience, with 10 points in 16 games during the Coyotes’ surprising run to the 2012 Western Conference Final.
He won’t come cheaply, though.
TSN reports that Arizona wants a roster player and prospect in return. Caps fans might be leery about going down this road — *cough* Filip Forsberg *cough* — but the club does have some intriguing guys to dangle, like ’13 second-rounder Madison Bowey (currently at Team Canada’s World Junior camp) and Boston College freshman Zach Sanford.
The final thing to consider with Vermette is if he’d be considered a rental, or someone to keep for the future. He’s likely to get a raise on the $3.75M he’s making annually on his current deal; the Caps could have some big-ticket items coming off the books this summer, including pending UFA defenseman Mike Green and his $6M cap hit.