One week ago, no one could see the Chicago Blackhawks looking at a player like Antoine Vermette as a possible acquisition at the trade deadline. With a loaded offense, including the league’s top scorer, Patrick Kane, it seemed an upgrade on defense was the only forseeable option.
However, when #88 hit the wall on Wednesday night, subsequently putting him out of the lineup for 3 months, that all changed. Now, the Blackhawks, who were already in the middle of a Central Division dogfight, lost their star player. There’s a spot on the second line for rent, and it looks like Antoine Vermette could be the next tenant.
Vermette is in the final year of his 5-year contract he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2010, worth nearly $20 million. The Jackets sent Vermette to the desert in 2012, and though the Arizona Coyotes have had some success with the forward, including eliminating the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs en-route to the Western Conference Final, it is clear that both parties are preparing to head in different directions. Now, Vermette has become one of the most desirable players ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.
If Stan Bowman’s words are any indication, it seems that a trade could be made by the weekend.
However, is Vermette the one they’re after? Logic would say it is.
Vermette would certainly be a rental for the Blackhawks, and not many would expect the 32-year old to start the 2015-16 campaign in Chicago, with Kane 100% healthy. While he’s with the Blackhawks, however, he would provide an experienced stick on offense in Kane’s place, though no one anticipates Vermette to produce at nearly the same pace as #88.
Vermette has 13 goals and 35 points with the Coyotes this season, in 62 games. He is a -22 (the Coyotes as a team are a league-worst -65), and has a $3.75 million salary this season.
The Blackhawks’ only options to replace Kane from within reside in Teuvo Teravainen (who scored his third NHL goal last night), Ryan Hartman (who has yet to find the net for his first NHL mark) and Joakim Nordstrom (the captain of the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate), who combine for 70 NHL regular season games.
The Blackhawks numbers without Kane are appalling, with a win percentage less than .500, a powerplay with a 10% fewer conversion percentage, and a full goal-per-game less on offense. It is clear that if the Blackhawks want any chance of seeing Kane suit up for them again this season, or at the very least, make it to the playoffs without him, then they will need to find somebody to fill his place.
The Coyotes could be asking for Antti Raanta in return, after Devan Dubnyk was traded to the Minnesota Wild over a month ago. Raanta could play second fiddle to Mike Smith in the desert, something that he had been doing in Chicago prior to the Blakchawks swapping him with Scott Darling, then re-signing his counterpart a week ago. Clearly, that wouldn’t be enough in return for the ‘Yotes, and they could be asking for a AHL prospect or a early-round draft pick in this year’s draft also.
Blackhawks fans will have to wait and see what Stan Bowman and team management decide to do with their dire situation, and with only 3 days to go until the trade deadline, expect something to happen sooner, rather than later.
Thanks for reading! For more Blackhawks conversation follow us on Twitter: @Blackhawk_Up.