Faceoff master, Cup champion Vermette retires after 14 seasons

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After spending 14 seasons as one of the NHL’s best players in the faceoff circle and a perennial hired gun at the trade deadline, Antoine Vermette officially announced his retirement from the league on Thursday.

Vermette last played in the NHL during the 2017-18 season with the Anaheim Ducks, appearing in 64 goals and tallying 16 total points.

He finishes his career with 228 goals, 515 total points, 1,046 games played, and a Stanley Cup ring as a member of the 2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks.

“I am immensely grateful for all these incredible years punctuated by memorable moments that I will cherish forever. For me, hockey has been an outstanding vehicle for teaching the right values such as perseverance, discipline and respect,” wrote Vermette in a statement released by the NHL Players’ Association.

“I would like to outline the importance of the people who believed in me in the organizations of Ottawa, Columbus, Arizona/Phoenix, Chicago and Anaheim for making this unforgettable journey possible. I wish to thank my agent, all of my coaches and assistant coaches, the support staff of the teams that I had a chance to play for and the others that I crossed paths with around the league. I want to thank my fitness trainer, my special summer training group in Quebec City and the members of the media. Also, I want to thank the fans who by their support, contributed to making my dream a reality. It was from their passion that we experienced some magical moments together.”

After starting his career with the Senators, Vermette found himself on the move at the trade deadline every couple of years to be a role player on a hopeful contender. His versatility, two-way play, and expertise in the faceoff circle made him the type of player that general managers always wanted to have on their roster come playoff time. It was the latter skill that he is perhaps best known for as he finished his career with the 14th most faceoff wins in NHL history (at least since the league has tracked faceoff wins since the start of the 1997 season). Along with that he also had the 15th best faceoff winning percentage (better than 56 percent) between the 2003-04 and 2017-18 seasons, the span of his career. What is most amazing about all of that is that he never really practiced the skill.

The highpoint of Vermette’s career was almost certainly the 2014-15 season when he was a deadline acquisition by the Blackhawks. After a tough end to the regular season where he was held without a goal in his first 19 games with the team, he ended up making a huge impact in the playoffs by scoring four goals, including three game-winning goals for the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

Two of those game-winning goals came in the Stanley Cup Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he scored late third period goals to help lift the Blackhawks to 2-1 wins in Games 1 and 5 of the series. The Blackhawks went on to win the series in six games.

He also spent time with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes during his career, playing a significant role in the latter’s run to the 2012 Western Conference Final after he was, again, a late-season trade deadline acquisition by scoring five goals in the team’s 16 playoff games.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.