Coyotes trade Vermette for first-round pick, defenseman Dahlbeck
Coyotes center Antoine Vermette made it all the way through the team’s four-game, East Coast road trip without being traded. But he didn’t make it through the flight back to Phoenix.
Just before the team took off from Boston following Saturday’s 4-1 loss at TD Garden, the Coyotes traded Vermette to the Chicago Blackhawks for a first-round pick in 2015 and 23-year-old defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck.
"On behalf of the entire Coyotes organization I would like to thank Antoine for everything he did for our club on and off the ice the past four seasons," Arizona general manager Don Maloney said. "Antoine is the consummate professional and a class act and we wish him the best of luck in the future."
Maloney had long been rumored to be holding out for a first-round pick and a quality prospect, with some analysts questioning whether that price was too steep. In the end, Maloney got what he wanted.
"We knew what we had in mind," he said. "We had several fallback deals. It wasn’t that we were going to be left at the altar."
Maloney said there were two other available deals that were comparable to the Chicago deal. He also said the earlier trades of defenseman Andrej Sekera from Carolina to Los Angeles, and a trade that sent the Maple Leafs’ Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to Nashville, set the market for this deal.
The first-round pick Arizona acquired in this year’s draft won’t be overly high. Chicago currently sits 10th overall in the league standings, but this is considered a deep draft and the Coyotes now have two picks in its first round, including a lottery pick.
Dahlbeck is listed at 6 feet 3, 206 pounds. He was the Blackhawks’ third-round pick in 2011 (79th overall). He grew up in Sweden, about 30 minutes from where current Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson grew up. They played against each other several times and were once teammates.
Blackhawks and NBC analyst Ed Olczyk describes Dahlbeck as a "big, stay-at-home" defenseman who skates well "with some offense in his game." Dahlbeck had 10 goals and 35 points in 75 games last season with Rockford of the AHL. In 49 games this season in Rockford, he has four goals and 10 points.
The Coyotes have been looking for stay-at-home types to play alongside offensive-minded defensemen Keith Yandle and Ekman-Larsson for the better part of the past two seasons. Dahlbeck could fit that bill, but Maloney said it’s too early to say where the left-shooting Swede fits in the mix.
"We like the way he moves, we like his defending style, he’s a bigger, thicker body," Maloney said. "We need to get our hands on him and get a look at him. We like the potential there but I’m hesitant to put a label on him. We think he’s a good prospect."
Vermette, 32, was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and reportedly will seek a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $5 million to $6 million per season. That likely would preclude the Coyotes from re-signing him this summer.
Vermette had 13 goals and 35 points this season with Arizona, but his production dipped the last couple months with trade rumors swirling around him. In 14 February games, he had two goals and four points and was a minus-7 — a dip that Maloney admitted made finding a deal a bit more laborious.
"I don’t think in the past month, month and a half, he’s played anywhere near the way he’s capable of playing," Maloney said.
Vermette seemed to sense his time with the Coyotes was over after Saturday’s game.
"You’ve got to take it as a man; it’s part of the game unfortunately," he told FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh. "It’s a special group, special guys. I made some friends here."
Vermette was boarding a plane when the deal was completed so he wasn’t available, but his agent, Allan Walsh, admitted going to Chicago is very attractive to Vermette.
"It’s a great spot," Allan Walsh texted.
With Vermette dealt, the Coyotes will turn their attention to defenseman Zbynek Michalek, the team’s other key unrestricted free agent who has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors.
Michalek missed the four-game trip while recovering from an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion. Maloney said the injury hasn’t helped in the team’s efforts to trade Michalek but he doesn’t think it has significantly hurt either.
"He’s well on the road to recovery and there is significant interest in his services," said Maloney, who could not put a timetable on Michalek’s return to the ice.
Maloney said the Coyotes are pursuing several other deals besides Michalek, which is the main reason he and assistant GM Darcy Regier returned to the Valley from New York on Friday rather than travelling with the team to Boston.
He and Regier wanted to be able use the team’s facilities and resources to analyze and strategize.
"We have a lot of irons in the fire," Maloney said.
The Coyotes have three other unrestricted free agents: forwards Martin Erat, B.J. Crombeen and David Moss. Yandle has also been the subject of rumors, which has been the case for the past few seasons. There may be other attractive pieces on the roster such as veteran forwards Lauri Korpikoski and Sam Gagner or young players such as forward Lucas Lessio and defensemen Connor Murphy and Michael Stone.
Maloney would not address Yandle or any other specific deals he is pursuing.
The Blackhawks have had interest in Vermette for weeks, but their cap constraints made acquiring him difficult. When Chicago lost star forward Patrick Kane to a broken left clavicle this week it gained about $6.5 million in cap relief and was desperate for help as it chases a third Stanley Cup in the past six years.
With Jonathan Toews’ and Kane’s big contract extensions kicking in next season at an average annual value of $10.5 million, the belief in Chicago is that the team will have to move some other big-name players such as wing Patrick Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya.
This could be an all-in move to give the Hawks a chance to compete for the Cup. Kane’s timeline for recovery is 12 weeks, so the hope is that he can return by the Western Conference Finals if Chicago can manage to get that far in a stacked Central Division.
The Blackhawks acquired veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen from Philadelphia on Friday to further bolster their chances. Now they have Vermette, a popular teammate, to add to their center depth with Toews, badly slumping Brad Richards and either Marcus Kruger or Teuvo Teravainen.
"He’s been a real valuable player for us because he plays in all situations," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told Todd Walsh. "He’s an unbelievable person. You ask any teammate in there; they would stick up for this guy any day.
"He’s a player that every team needs."