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Numbers Game: Coyotes bring in Vermette

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Scott Cullen
2/22/2012 2:43:02 PM
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The Phoenix Coyotes made a move to get a veteran who will improve their face-off work and could offer some offensive upside.

Numbers Game looks at the Coyotes' acquisition of Antoine Vermette.

The Coyotes Get: C Antoine Vermette.

Vermette, 29, has been an effective and durable two-way forward throughout his career though, like many of his teammates in Columbus, he's struggled this season, scoring eight goals and 27 points, with a minus-17 rating, in 60 games.

In six-plus seasons since the lockout, Vermette has missed a total of nine games, and none since the 2008-2009 season.

However, Vermette also owns the best shot differential of any Blue Jackets forward that has played at least 10 games this season (plus-4.1 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, despite starting 44.7% of his shifts in the offensive zone; per www.behindthenet.ca), so he's certainly been victimized to some degree by Columbus' lacklustre goaltending.

Vermette scored a career-high 27 goals and 65 points for the Blue Jackets in 2009-2010, but he's been reduced to more of a checking role this season, lately playing the wing with Samuel Pahlsson and Derek Dorsett (www.leftwinglock.com). It's that kind of versatility that should make Vermette a good fit in Phoenix.

A strong performer on face-offs, Vermette has won 55.2% of his draws in Columbus since the start of the 2009-2010 season, a skill that should help him fit in with his new club and provide value even if he doesn't produce a great deal offensively.

He's a capable two-way forward who can play centre and wing and play in all situations, thus he can comfortably find a spot somewhere among Phoenix's top nine forwards, potentially even on the first line because the Coyotes' highest-scoring centre, Martin Hanzal, has 27 points on the season - the same total as Vermette.

Considering that Vermette has three more seasons, at a cap hit of $3.75-million, left on his deal, it sure makes sense for the Coyotes to give him a shot in a scoring role. He is third among Phoenix forwards in cap hit, behind Shane Doan and Daymond Langkow and under contract for the third-longest term, behind Hanzal and defenceman Keith Yandle. That kind of financial commitment is rarely made for forwards expected to play checking roles, so Vermette should have some offensive upside over the final quarter of the season and beyond.

The Blue Jackets Get: A second-round pick, a conditional fifth-round pick in 2013 and G Curtis McElhinney.

This may be just the beginning of Columbus' roster overhaul, so draft picks are a fine -- if completely underwhelming -- place to start when shedding a long-term contract.

The second-round pick orginally belonged to Ottawa and was acquired in the Kyle Turris trade, so it figures to be in the middle of the second round, offering about a 30% chance of yielding an NHL player.

The fifth-round pick could be a fourth-round pick if the Coyotes win a playoff round this year, but the difference in value between a fourth and fifth-round pick is negligible. Both yield a 10-15% chance of landing an NHLer.

McElhinney is a 28-year-old goaltender that has played 69 career NHL games, posting a 3.10 goals against average and .899 save percentage and while he might have been an option for the goaltending-starved Blue Jackets, he's out with an abdominal injury, making his inclusion little more than minor financial shuffling of his $225,000 AHL salary (www.capgeek.com).

Vermette's departure isn't likely to be the last one from Columbus in the coming days, so the opportunities will start to open up for young Blue Jackets forwards to prove that they are worthy of NHL roles. Colton Gillies may get a longer look with Pahlsson (for as long he stays) and Dorsett in the short-term.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Antoine Vermette and Josh Harding (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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