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Welcome Antoine Vermette to the trade rumor mill

Phoenix Coyotes v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 20: Antoine Vermette #50 of the Phoenix Coyotes and Slava Voynov #26 of the Los Angeles Kings battle for the puck in the third period in Game Four of the Western Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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The NHL’s trade deadline isn’t until March 2, but it’s never too early to start identifying potential targets.

Coyotes center Antoine Vermette, a pending unrestricted free agent, is one to keep an eye on, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston:

Vermette isn’t just playing out the final year of his contract; he’s doing it for an Arizona Coyotes team that is unable to open real negotiations until its ownership restructuring has been completed. He is in limbo and he’s trying really hard not to think about it.

On top of that, the Coyotes (5-6-1) are off to a slow start. As a result, they already sit five points back of fifth place in the Pacific Division, arguably the toughest division in the NHL.

Which is to say, there’s a very good chance they’ll be sellers at the deadline.

On a Stanley Cup contender, Vermette could be an excellent third-line center, able to win faceoffs and kill penalties, while chipping in offensively. His cap hit isn’t huge at $3.75 million, and the Coyotes could always retain part of his salary to grease the wheels on a deal.

Vermette refused to “go too deep into this” with Johnston; however, the player did concede, “I’ve moved before.”

Related: Vermette is the Coyotes’ Bergeron, says Tippett