In searching for elusive scoring talent, the Arizona Coyotes are willing to be patient.
That represents a reasonable timetable for the future in Max Domi, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak, Anthony Duclair and Dylan Strome to develop. In this transition period, general manager Don Maloney wanted to fill the gap with a player of reasonable talent, experience and one which provides some offensive flex.
At the conclusion of day one of free agency, Maloney found that missing part.
Reaching out to the Coyotes, former Arizona center Antoine Vermette strongly discussed the possibility to returning to the desert. That was after the Coyotes dealt the veteran center to the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline last March.
After the Stanley Cup playoffs, Vermette was considered a desirable free agent, and the Coyotes retained an interest in his services.
After helping the Hawks to their third Stanley Cup in the last six seasons, Vermette was shunned by Chicago, and made his desire known to continue his NHL career outside of the Windy City.
Late Wednesday, Vermette and the Coyotes agreed to a two-year deal and Maloney, for one, could not be happier.
In a conference call with reporters after he inked a two-year deal, Vermette said he had no talks with the Blackhawks on a new contract and in fact, no discussion.
The opportunity to return to the desert was appealing because Vermette began to put roots in the Phoenix area, and his wife Leonna just gave birth to their son.
In the end, Vermette said his representatives searched around the league, because “it’s my job to be better on the ice.”
With familiar ties to the area and the prospect for growth of his family, Vermette told reporters on a conference call late Monday night, the decision was easy.
“The family situation was important for me, and it’s an easy fit to come home,” he said. “I can’t worry what happened last year here, and I just want to look to the future.”
Back in the desert
According to spotrac.com, Vermette’s two-year deal is work $7.5 million, and Maloney indicated the amount and length was clearly suitable to the Coyotes.
“We had a need at center and Antoine is the perfect fit for us,” Maloney said. “There was no other player out there which gives us the experience and familiarity we have with Antoine.”
Immediately, Vermette brings leadership and experience to a team desperately in search of continuity.
Despite scoring no goals for the Blackhawks through the 19 regular season games after dealt by the Coyotes on March 2, Vermette came alive in the playoffs. Scoring four times and assisting on three others, the native of St. Agapit, Que. was instrumental in helping Chicago to its third Stanley Cup championship within six years.
At this point, passing the Cup between Blackhawks teammates is history, and Vermette simply said it’s time to move forward..
“We want to improve and I’m excited about that,” Vermette said. “The components are here for good things, and it’s time to build momentum for the future.”
Follow Mark Brown on twitter, @journalist193
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.