Forward Antoine Vermette believes he can still be a productive NHL player and the Anaheim Ducks are ready to see what he brings to the table.
On Monday, it was officially announced that Vermette signed a two-year deal with the club, which is coming just weeks after the division-rival Arizona Coyotes placed him on waivers and bought him out.
The Quebec native was drafted by Ottawa in the second round (55th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and he made his NHL debut with the Senators during the 2003-04 season where he appeared in 57 games and scored 14 points (7-7—14). Vermette played in 359 regular season contests with Ottawa before being traded to Columbus.
The Coyotes acquired Vermette from the Blue Jackets in a deal leading up to the 2012 trade deadline and he paid instant dividends for his new team.
In his 22 games with the Coyotes after the trade, Vermette notched 10 points (3-7—10) and helped lead the team to their first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history. In total, he played in all 16 of the Coyotes’ postseason contests that spring and tallied 10 points (5-5—10) while averaging 18:04 of ice time.
The Coyotes’ appearance in the 2012 Conference Final seemed to propel Vermette to fan favorite status. During this tenure in Arizona he didn’t miss a single regular season game and in 2013-14 he finished the season with 45 points (24-21—45), his highest point output since 2010-11 when he had 47 with Columbus.
Not only was Vermette a fan favorite for his scoring, but also for his contributions that don’t always immediately pop out on the scoresheet.
He never finished a full season for the Coyotes with a face-off percentage lower than 56 percent. He also led the club with 57.7 percent neutral zone face-off wins in 2012-13 among all players who took at least 200 draws, and he duplicated the effort again the following season with a 56.1 percent mark.
With the Coyotes out of the playoff hunt as the 2015 trade deadline drew near, then-General Manager Don Maloney traded Vermette to Chicago in exchange for a 2015 first-round draft selection and defenseman Klas Dahlbeck.
Vermette struggled in his post-trade tenure with the Blackhawks, registering just three assists in 19 games, although he did pitch in with seven points (4-3—7) during Chicago’s run to the Stanley Cup and scored the game-winning goal in double overtime of the Blackhawks’ 5-4 win over Anaheim in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.
He would return to Arizona via free agency last summer but his second stint with the Coyotes never seemed to quite have the traction his first one did.
He missed his first regular season games since the 2008-09 season and finished the season with 38 points (17-21—38) in 76 games. His average time on ice also took a tumble to 16:39, the lowest it had been since the 2006-07 season when he had 15:42.
With Vermette’s down year, his subsequent release from the Coyotes and questions about his production beginning to pop up, the 33-year-old began the process of fielding offers for where he’d play next, but all-in-all, he appears to have set himself up for success by signing with the Ducks.
Unlike Arizona, Vermette won’t have to be “the guy” in Orange County. On a roster with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Vermette can be a complementary player on the Ducks’ second or third line below fellow centers like Getzlaf and the young Rickard Rakell, which will be an appropriate role for him as he enters the later stages of his career.
From a financial point of view, this signing could be viewed as a high risk-high reward move. Accordingly to capfriendly.com, Vermette’s two-year deal has an annual cap hit of $1.75 million.
With restricted free agents Hampus Lindholm and Rakell still in need of contracts and only about $6.65 million in cap space available, a failed Antoine Vermette experiment could hamstring the organization at this season’s trade deadline if they feel like they need to upgrade another part of the roster. But if Vermette can return to the form he had with the Coyotes a few years back then he actually comes in at a modest discount.
All in all, it’s a good move for the Ducks, and a good one for Vermette, who has another chance to show that he can still be a key contributor to an NHL roster.