“In order to give our team more flexibility, we needed to make this difficult decision,” general manager John Chayka said. “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 was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks by the Coyotes at the 2015 trade deadline in exchange for a first round draft pick and Klas Dahlbeck. And then he made his way back to Arizona via free agency, signing a two-year deal with an average annual value of $3.75 million.
Obviously the Blackhawks paid a steep price for Vermette and he didn’t exactly deliver right away, notching just three assists in the regular season. Things turned around in the post-season, though, as the pivot put up seven points on the way to a Chicago Stanley Cup. He won faceoffs like a champ, too, with a 58.7 percent winning percentage.
For the Blackhawks, the price was worth it as they raised the hardware. But Vermette was still a limited talent and ultimately the ‘Yotes lured him back to the desert by schooling Chicago on the deal. They recouped their asset and secured a first-rounder to boot, making out like gangbusters.
The fancy free agency footwork seems to have come full circle with Monday’s announcement, however, and that’s partially true. Despite all the maneuvering to ensure Vermette found himself in Arizona again, it seems almost flippant to let him go now.
Alas, the cost for the 34-year-old from St. Agapit is too high and the Coyotes are deep down the middle with the likes of Martin Hanzal, Dylan Strome, Brad Richardson, and Christian Dvorak holding it down. For Vermette, age is a factor and Arizona would’ve had a tough time giving him the ice time to justify the price tag.
And for a team perpetually interested in obtaining dead cap space (see Pavey Datsyuk, Chris Pronger, Mike Ribeiro), there’s really no reason not to make the move on Vermette.
If/when the forward clears waivers, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday. At that point, a team in the market for a faceoff-winning centre could come calling. Or not. Either way, the Coyotes are doing what they have to do and Vermette may be once again on the move.