Coyotes place Antoine Vermette on waivers, buy out contract

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The Arizona Coyotes placed veteran forward Antoine Vermette on unconditional waivers on Monday and have bought out the final year of his contract.

The 34-year-old Vermette appeared in 76 games for the Coyotes this past season. He scored 17 goals.

“In order to give our team more flexibility, we needed to make this difficult decision,” general manager John Chayka said in a statement released by the team.

“This move will provide an opportunity for some of our young, talented players to step up. Antoine is a class act and we thank him for all he did on and off the ice for the Arizona Coyotes organization. We wish him the best in the future.”

Vermette signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes in the summer of 2015 that was to pay him an average salary cap hit of $3.75 million per season. The team will still have a $1.25 million cap hit on the books this season and next season after the buy out. That will be a salary cap savings of $2.5 million (via General Fanager) this year.

It’s pretty clear at this point that the Coyotes are looking to go young with their roster and that by getting rid of Vermette it should open up a spot for top prospects like 2015 No. 3 overall pick Dylan Strome or Christian Dvorak.

It also adds to what is one of the most interesting salary cap structures of any team in the NHL this season.

The Coyotes will have more than $64 million in salary cap commitments, well above the salary floor, but will only be paying out about $56 million in actual salary. That is largely because they will have four players on their cap that will not be playing for them this season.

Along with Vermette’s buyout, the Coyotes are also on the hook for the remainder of Mike Ribiero’s buyout through the 2019-20 season and also have the remaining cap hits that belong to the retired Chris Pronger ($4.9 million) and Pavel Datsyuk ($7.5 million).

The Coyotes have just a little more than $33 million committed to the salary cap for the 2017-18 season, and that includes the buyouts for Vermette and Ribeiro.

Even though Vermette’s scoring numbers were still decent this past season, he has shown some signs of significantly slowing down. His possession numbers have plummeted in recent years while he averaged just a little more than 1.5 shots on goal per game this past season.

But because he is a veteran player that has been around for a while, topped the 15-goal mark, and is still great in the faceoff circle (better than 55 percent this past season) there is still probably a team out there that sees value in him.