Antoine Vermette (Norm Hall/Getty Images)
With the playoffs approaching and the Coyotes in the Western Conference basement, teams in contention are growing increasingly interested in acquiring veteran center Antoine Vermette and puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle. Before the season is over, the Coyotes will likely look much different.
With the NHL March 2 trade deadline less than a month away, the Arizona Coyotes are expected to stage a fire sale of talent in the coming weeks. GM Don Maloney told the Arizona Republic he intends to “reset” his struggling roster by acquiring young assets. It's assumed Maloney will peddle pending unrestricted free agents like Antoine Vermette, Martin Erat and Zbynek Michalek.
TSN's Bob McKenzie claims the 32-year-old Vermette is currently the hottest commodity in the NHL trade market. McKenzie claims the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues have expressed varying degree of interest in Vermette. McKenzie claims some of those teams only see Vermette as a rental player and could bow out of the bidding if the asking price is too steep.
Count the Senators among those who've dropped out. The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan reports Senators GM Bryan Murray was interested in reacquiring Vermette, who began his NHL career in Ottawa, but Maloney appears to be looking at other offers. Brennan's colleague Bruce Garrioch claims Maloney sought promising rookie forward Curtis Lazar or another top prospect from the Senators.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes Vermette could be a perfect fit with the Canadiens. He notes Habs GM Marc Bergevin has a history of pursuing pending UFAs as playoff rentals (Michael Ryder, Thomas Vanek) and wondered if Bergevin could go after Vermette.
The New York Daily News' Pat Leonard reports the Rangers could use depth at center, suggesting Vermette among their options. Newsday's Steve Zipay also believes the Coyotes center could interest the Blueshirts.
Coyotes blueliner Keith Yandle is also the subject of trade chatter. Though he's a year away from UFA status, it's believed Maloney could trade him if the 28-year-old blueliner intends to test next summer's free-agent market. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports Maloney admits getting offers for Yandle but he's not actively shopping him. Garrioch, however, claims Maloney seeks “two pieces and a pick” for Yandle but hasn't decided how big the pieces could be.
In a recent interview with TSN 1200 radio, Maloney stirred the pot by suggesting the current status of his team means everyone is up for grabs. That immediately sparked speculation top-two defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be available.
Friedman, however, is skeptical that Ekman-Larsson might hit the trade block.
The 23-year-old blueliner has three years remaining on his contract and has to be considered a foundation piece for the Coyotes “reset”. Even if Maloney is willing to entertain offers, it will take a significant one (at least one good young player, a top prospect and a first-round pick) to convince him to part with his best defenseman.
Friedman also believes center Martin Hanzal could be difficult to pry away from the Coyotes. He can add right wing Mikkel Boedker to that list. Boedker, 25, is a restricted free agent this summer. Maloney told the Arizona Republic he intends to open contract talks with the winger soon.
The only Coyotes player seemingly unavailable is long-time captain Shane Doan. Maloney says the 38-year-old Doan, who has a year remaining on his contract, isn't going anywhere. In recent interviews Doan maintains he hasn't been asked to waive his no-trade clause and hasn't requested a trade.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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