A surprising summer buyout by the Arizona Coyotes has left Antoine Vermette without a team for the upcoming campaign, but Vermette’s agent, Allan Walsh, said that won’t be the case much longer.
On Saturday morning Walsh announced, via Twitter, that Vermette is currently mulling over five offers and should come to a decision about where he’ll play next season by Monday.
It’s no surprise that Vermette, 34, has his fair share of offers, and he could be an excellent addition to the middle-six of a team’s roster so long as he doesn’t come in at too high a price. Getting Vermette to come in on a cheaper deal might not be difficult, either, given that he’s set to earn $1.25 million in each of the next two campaigns as part of the buyout by the Coyotes.
Offensively, Vermette can still offer some punch in a third-line role and that’s likely where he slots in if he chooses to sign with a team that’s set for a deep run in the post-season. He’s coming off of a 17-goal, 38-point campaign with the Coyotes, during which he averaged 16:38 of ice time. It was quite clear the move by Arizona to buyout Vermette was made more in effort to open up spots for young, talented players set to make the jump to the NHL than it was a move made due to a massive downturn in Vermette’s contribution.
The one area where Vermette is definitely slowing, though, is on the defensive side of the puck. During the best years of his career, Vermette was a skilled two-way center, but he’s slowed in his ability to defend as the years have gone by.
This past season with the Coyotes, Vermette’s zone starts were nearly evenly split between the offensive, neutral and defensive zones. Vermette ranked seventh of the 12 forwards who played 500 minutes at 5-on-5 with the Coyotes last season with a Corsi for percentage of 46.3 percent. Relative to the rest of his team, he had a Corsi for percentage that was nearly one percent worse, and of the players who skated at least 800 minutes, only Brad Richardson had a worse Corsi for percentage relative to the team.
If given the chance to play more limited minutes in a stronger system, though, Vermette could thrive.
When he was with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup run, his contributions lacked early, but he came alive late in the post-season. Coach Joel Quenneville used Vermette sparingly — his average ice time was 13:07 — but was thrown out into defensive zone situations where a faceoff win was required. And while the value of faceoffs has been debated in the advanced stats community, Vermette has shown a knack for being strong on the dot.
Vermette is among the 31 players to take 4,000-plus draws since the start of the lockout-shortened season, and over that time he has boasted a 56.1 winning percentage. Only Boyd Gordon, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron have been better, and Vermette is tied for fourth with Ryan Kesler. For what it’s worth, too, Vermette has been the second-best shorthanded faceoff man of the group at a rate of 55.4 percent.
Vermette still has something left to give and could be an effective player, but it will all come down to usage. And we should be finding out where Vermette intends to play next season by the start of the coming week.
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