The dominoes had been falling for weeks, but one of the biggest remaining names on the likely-to-be-traded board was former Arizona Coyotes center Antoine Vermette. Notice I said former, because Vermette was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a first round pick in this year’s draft and prospect defenceman Klas Dahlbeck, a third round pick from 2011.
The prospect included, Dahlbeck, is not something to get overly excited about as a Coyotes fan from an offensive standpoint. He’s not a Keith Yandle replacement (few are, as far as points tallied are concerned). Dahlbeck’s Hockey’s Future profile can be read here. In 194 AHL games to date, Dahlbeck has 15 goals and 36 assists. That’s an 82-game pace of 22 points.
The first round pick also isn’t exciting either. The Blackhawks are sure to finish in the top-10 of the league in points, possibly even top-5. That would send the first round pick possibly to the bottom 20-percent of the first round. For a good read on the value of draft picks, read this by Steve Burtch of Sportsnet.
With Patrick Kane injured likely into the third round of the playoffs – if all goes well with recovery and rehab – the Blackhawks needed to replace some scoring. Marian Hossa hadn’t started to pick up the goal production until recently, and Patrick Sharp is having his worst goal-scoring season, on a per-game basis, since 2005-2006. On top of that, second line centre Brad Richards has just nine goals on the year.
Vermette has been around a long time, though he might seem younger to some fans. Vermette is in his Age 32 season, and has been around since the 2005 lockout. One big reason that Vermette was acquired is that he’s an unrestricted free agent after the season, and monster contract extensions for Kane and Jonathan Toews kick in next year. Combined, those two players will account for over $20-million on Chicago’s salary cap. In fact, between those two, Bryan Bickell, and Corey Crawford, those four players make up over $30-million of the cap alone, which will be well over 40-percent of next year’s cap. It was important to get a player who wouldn’t be around next year.
A few years ago, back when Vermette was with Columbus and even his first year in Phoenix, Vermette was a positive possession player relative to his team. But it’s important to look at why:
- 2011-2012: Vermette was with Columbus and drove possession with almost any person he was paired with. That, though, was done largely in a secondary role, letting others play harder minutes.
- 2013: Vermette played over 331 minutes with Shane Doan, and that produced a 53-percent CorsiFor (puck possession differential at five-on-five). Without Doan (in over 292 minutes) Vermette plummeted to 44-percent, while Doan went down to just 50.3-percent.
- 2013-2014: Vermette was a 48.3-percent possession player playing the toughest minutes for the Coyotes.
- This year: Vermette is again just a 47.6-percent possession player, but again was playing the toughest minutes for the team. Like 2013 though, his numbers .
What’s worse about this year is that Vermette hasn’t been driving possession for his line mates. Rather, almost to a man, every line mate has done better away from Vermette than with him. This may be a function of easier minutes when his line mates aren’t with him. Regardless, it’s a stark contrast from 2011-2012, when Vermette was driving possession (in easier minutes).
The hope here for Chicago fans is that he will not be asked to dictate the play and control the opposition’s top players. That task will continue to belong to the Toews line. Also, if Vermette does indeed slot in as the second line centre as expected, he’ll be with Patrick Sharp, who is very good at driving possession himself.
What the Blackhawks got was a player who was fine possession-wise while on a terrible team and playing their hardest minutes at different points. He’ll be on a Cup contender and playing much easier minutes.
Of all things Chicago needs to happen, Vermette and Sharp need to find chemistry instantly. There is enough skill on the team that they can win a couple of playoff series while they wait for Patrick Kane to get healthy. They need all the skill still playing to play to their potential, and in terms of production, Sharp certainly has not.
If Vermette can click with Sharp, and Sharp starts filling the net like he’s shown time and time again he can, this will be a great get for the Blackhawks. If Sharp doesn’t turn around his shooting percentage, though, this trade will be moot, and Vermette’s addition will be almost meaningless.