Antoine Vermette (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Coyotes made a surprising move Monday by placing veteran center Antoine Vermette on unconditional waivers, and reports indicate he will be bought out by Arizona. Vermette, 34, scored 17 goals and 38 points last season, but buying him out opens spots for prospects such as Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak.
The youth movement is in full swing in Arizona, and it appears to have cost Antoine Vermette his spot with the Coyotes.
Monday afternoon the Coyotes placed Vermette, 34, on unconditional waivers, and according to AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan the next step will be a buyout of the veteran pivot’s contract. Vermette is currently in the final season of a two-year, $7.5-million deal he signed with the Coyotes in July 2015, and the buyout comes out of left field.
While Vermette isn’t exactly the best option the Coyotes have down the middle, he’s still a capable bottom-six center. He scored 17 goals and 38 points this past season — fifth- and sixth-best on the Coyotes, respectively — and averaged 16:38 of ice time per game. He’s more than capable of getting the job done in a depth role.
Buying Vermette out saves the Coyotes $2.5 million this season, but that's inconsequential for a team currently $6.35 million under the cap. The buyout can help the Coyotes save a bit of coin, especially with a cheap replacement, but the difference between Vermette staying in Arizona or being paid to leave really won’t make much of a difference in terms of actual salary as the Coyotes will still be on the hook for another $1.25 million the following campaign.
Vermette had to agree to be placed on waivers, too, which is an interesting wrinkle. He has a no-movement clause, but the chance to be picked up on unconditional waivers offers him the opportunity to earn his full salary this coming season. One reason he may have agreed could be that heading straight to a buyout would leave him without the option to earn his full salary. Add that to knowing he wouldn’t have the role he wanted with the club, and it makes sense why Vermette would agree.
Though some may see it as a cap move for a budget team, it actually looks as though the buyout is coming in order to open up a spot down the lineup for one of Arizona’s promising prospects to take over. With Vermette moving on, at least two spots have opened up for centers and each of Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak and potentially Laurent Dauphin could fight for those spots in the Coyotes’ lineup next season.
Strome and Dvorak were ranked first and 10th, respectively, in THN’s Future Watch 2016 edition, which means a panel of scouts put the pair of Arizona rookies among the best players not yet in the league. And the idea of having Strome playing alongside Max Domi and Anthony Duclair is exciting for fans of fast-paced, creative hockey.
Strome, drafted third overall in 2015, is coming off of a 37-goal, 111-point season that saw him notch nearly two points per game. He outclassed the rest of the OHL this past season as a member of the Erie Otters, and many expected him to make the Coyotes lineup this coming season. The same can be said for Dvorak, who dominated en route to a 52-goal, 121-point season with the OHL’s London Knights.
The wild-card might be Dauphin. In his first full AHL campaign, Dauphin managed 11 goals and 24 points, and his skating ability fits perfectly into the up-tempo style of game the Coyotes play. He got a taste of the NHL in 2015-16, too. He played eight games for the Coyotes, scored one goal and averaged fourth-line minutes. As his stay with the Coyotes at seasons’ end progressed, Dauphin earned more and more ice time, creeping up over 13 minutes per game in four of his final five games.
With the talent coming through the ranks, there’s really not a spot for Vermette anymore. He doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the new style of play, and while the move doesn’t appear to be with the cap in mind, it does save the Coyotes some money. That never hurts. However, none of that makes the buyout any less surprising.
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