If there is one thing that sports fans cannot live without, it is speculation. That being said, the NHL trade deadline is fast approaching – February 27 at 3 p.m. ET – so ’tis the season to start speculating. The Washington Capitals, as they have been in recent seasons, are sure to be active at the deadline, so over the next month, KOL will examine some of the marquee names available as well as some surprises. The fourth installment is below and the first three can be found here, here, here and here. Share your thoughts down there as well.
Antoine Vermette (C), Columbus Blue Jackets
- Contract status: three years remaining on a five-year, $18.75 million contract; $3.75 million annual salary cap hit.
The epicenter of this season’s trade rumblings has originated from Columbus, Ohio. First, it was Jeff Carter. Now, it is Rick Nash. Yet, apparently the Caps are interested in a lesser-known, but effective member of the Blue Jackets roster.
According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Washington has reportedly taken a look at Vermette, which makes sense, considering the frequency in which members of both organizations have been at each other’s games lately. Vermette joining the Caps could also make sense.
The 29-year-old Quebec native might be having an average season based on his standards (eight goals, 25 points in 57 games, though he is still third on the Jackets in scoring behind Nash and Vinny Prospal), but he is arguably one of the more versatile players in the NHL. He can fit into almost any role (not to mention the ability to play on both on the wing and at center). from the power play to the penalty kill, where he averages just under 2:00 on each unit per game. Vermette also has Stanley Cup Final experience, having made it there with the 2006-07 Ottawa Senators.
Vermette is more of a playmaker than a natural scorer (he has four consecutive season of 25-plus assists, though he has topped 20 goals three times), but his value is as a two-way forward who does the little things. Possessing great speed and tenacity, Vermette chips in quietly. For example, this season, Vermette has 65 hits, 30 blocked shots and 32 takeaways. The less you hear about Vermette, the better he is playing.
The most important aspect of Vermette’s game, however, is his faceoff acumen. Vermette’s 56.5 percent success rate is 10th in the NHL as of Friday. That success comes primarily in the defensive zone as his offensive zone start percentage is 45.1 percent. Having another strong faceoff man to aid Jeff Halpern in the defensive zone could only help.
While Vermette could solve some of the Caps’ current issues at center, his or anybody else’s arrival in Washington depends on the health of Nicklas Backstrom. General Manager George McPhee said Thursday that he will continue to monitor the health of Backstrom, out since January 3 with a concussion, until the deadline arrives on February 27. McPhee also said that putting Backstrom on long-term injured reserve, which would remove his $6.7 million cap hit, would not be benficial if he was able to return before the end of regular season.
“It’s an option certainly, but Nicky’s not the kind of guy you want to LTI and then three weeks later he’s ready to go and you can’t use him,” McPhee said.
Another factor that McPhee and the Caps would have to consider is if they are willing to dedicate space and money to the three remaining years and $3.75 million cap hit that Vermette would take up.
The Cannon‘s Mike MacLean believes that Columbus would likely want only early-round draft picks and/or prospects in exchange for Vermette, so if the Caps can and are willing to pay that price, Vermette could be an asset in balancing out the depth chart down the middle of the ice.
Check back throughout the month for more trade deadline analysis.