The Arizona Coyotes made the surprising move to put 12-year veteran Antoine Vermette on waivers for the purpose of buying out of the final year of his contract on Monday afternoon. The impending buyout for the center caused a bit of a ripple in NHL waters during an otherwise quiet time around the league.
The 34-year-old Vermette didn’t have a particularly strong season in Arizona last season with 17 goals, 38 points and a minus-14 rating, but played 16:38 of ice time per game and put up 16 power play points for the Desert Dogs. It was also just a couple of years ago that the Chicago Blackhawks ponied up a first round pick to the Coyotes in exchange for Vermette, so Monday’s move might have been a surprise to most outside the John Chayka circle of trust.
Naturally Bruins fans wonder if the old Black and Gold might take a flier on Vermette given his close friendship with offseason workout buddy Patrice Bergeron, and the relatively cheap price they could pick up the solid, experienced two-way center. It’s never prudent to say “never” when it comes to this particular Bruins front office, of course, so we won’t rule out the Bruins signing him to a bargain contract after he clears waivers noontime on Tuesday.
But signing Vermette also goes against what the Bruins have done already this season, and their desire to inject youth into a lineup that could desperately use more of it. The Bruins already have ridiculous depth at the center spot with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Noel Acciari and Riley Nash down the middle along with Austin Czarnik and Seth Griffith likely starting the season at Providence. So bringing in a veteran like Vermette, who it should be noted was a whopping minus-37 over the last two years, would further crowd an already overabundant center situation with an experienced guy in Nash already vying for a fourth line spot.
In essence, the Bruins would be using a valuable piece of their remaining $6.7 million in cap space at a position where Boston’s roster is already stacked. That would be the same $6.7 million in cap space that the Black and Gold are holding open for a free agent named Jimmy Vesey ready to make his NHL decision a couple of weeks from now, and also keeping clear for a potential top-4 defenseman should one shake free in a trade leading up to training camp.
It might only be a smallish portion of the available cap space, but tying up some of that money in an aging, declining player like Vermette, one that the Coyotes couldn’t find a partner willing to trade for leading up to Monday’s move, doesn’t make a whole lot of reasonable sense.
Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs