Coyotes’ Vermette blocking out trade talk

The idea Antoine Vermette could be traded at some point this season isn't new, even if it is all the rage again recently.

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antoine Vermette’s name was bandied about in trade talks before. He began his career in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, after all.

"Back there it was all they talked about," Vermette said with a laugh. 

The idea Vermette could be traded at some point this season isn’t new, even if it is all the rage again because national pundits are saying it. The Coyotes center will make $3.75 million this season and he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He touches all areas of the game and is a strong two-way player so he would be a valuable commodity for teams in search of help at or before the trade deadline.

Vermette has eight goals and a team-high 21 points heading into Saturday’s matinee with the Los Angeles Kings. He is winning 54.2 percent of his faceoffs and he plays on both special teams, leading the Coyotes with five power-play goals.

"You try to control what you can control," Vermette said. "It’s not an exciting quote but it is true. That’s how you have to approach it."

Vermette’s agent, Allan Walsh, wouldn’t comment on the trade speculation on Friday, but it should be clear that many of the rumors that are swirling are unfounded speculation. That’s the nature of trade rumors.

"All I will say is what I tell everyone," Walsh said. "Antoine loves playing in Arizona and he would love to stay."

Coyotes GM Don Maloney said Friday that he didn’t expect any deals before the NHL’s roster freeze went into effect at midnight. The freeze ends at midnight on Dec. 27.

Mike Smith got a solid week’s worth of work with goalie coach Sean Burke this week. He hasn’t played since Dec. 11, but Devan Dubnyk will make his third straight start on Saturday in Los Angeles.

COYOTES at KINGS

When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Records: Coyotes 11-16-4, Kings 16-11-6
Injuries: Kings: D Robyn Regehr (upper body) is out after blocking a shot on Thursday. Coyotes: D Michael Stone (upper body) is out and F Lauri Korpikoski (lower body) is doubtful, but both will make the three-game trip. 
Quick facts: L.A. C Anze Kopitar had five points (four assist) and the Kings rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat St. Louis, 6-4, on Thursday. …  L.A. had lost five of its previous six games. … Regehr’s absence is bad news for a team that is still dealing with the indefinite suspension of Slava Voynov and the offseason defection of Willie Mitchell. The Kings were expected to recall D Jeff Schultz from Manchester of the AHL but it is unclear whether he will play. … L.A. has averaged 3.05 goals per game over its last 19 games (58 goals). Its opponents have scored at least three goals in five straight games.

Dubnyk earned three of a possible four points in the last two starts. When asked if Dubnyk had earned more time, Tippett acknowledged that he has the hot hand.

"He’s played well," Tippett said. "On a smaller sampling, Devan’s had some games that maybe haven’t been as good either, but for the most part, he’s just been solid and that’s what you’ve seen in the last two games."

Smith will play at some point on the trip since the Coyotes play three games in four days on this trip, but it is unclear yet whether he will face Vancouver or Edmonton. In the meantime, Dubnyk maintained the same stance he has all season about his role as a backup, even if he is playing more than he expected.

"I understand that’s why I was brought in," he said of his backup role. "My whole focus from the start of the year was to provide the same quality of goaltending no matter who’s playing and make them want to put me in the net." 

Dubnyk is 6-2-2 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Smith is 5-14-2 with a 3.35 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.

Center Martin Hanzal and his wife, Lenka, had the couple’s second child on Friday: a baby girl named Natalia.  Hanzal’s status for Saturday’s game in Los Angeles was still unclear. The Hanzals already have a son, Martin Jr.

Smith was sporting a new mask at Friday’s practice with Wily E. Coyote chasing a fearful Roadrunner and three cacti on the back of varying heights to represent his three children, Aksel, Ajax and Nixon. Their names are printed faintly in the shadows of their respective cacti.

"It might not hurt to try it in a game," Smith quipped of his weeklong rest. "It’s ready whenever I get a chance to play."

As for the designed, Smith said the current one isn’t as "kid friendly" as past incarnations.

"It’s a little more mean," he said. "It’s the whole head of the Coyote with coyote claws and the paws and then the mouth open on the tongue and the saliva."

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