Antoine Vermette wears the number 50 on his sweater for the Arizona Coyotes, but the number 40 is quite significant for him as well. It represents the number of regular season goals he has scored as a member of the Coyotes since being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 22, 2012 for Curtis McElhinney, a second round pick (originally belonging to Ottawa that was gained in the Kyle Turris trade) and a fourth round pick. That deal has produced excellent value for the Coyotes thus far, as Vermette as been able to tally 40 goals, 36 assists and 76 points in his two plus seasons in the desert.
Vermette's value is also key in other areas, most notably his defensive presence and intelligent play. He has provided quality special teams play, scoring 12 power play goals as a Coyote and tallying the only three shorthanded goals the Desert Dogs scored last season, his only shorties in the desert. Last season, he was on the ice for over 40 percent of the team's total power play and penalty kill time. He also led all Coyotes forwards in total ice time and average time on ice, all while facing the highest level of competition. In short, Vermette was the best non-defenseman in Sedona Red last season, and arguably the team's most valuable player. This season, the Coyotes will likely ask even more from the Quebec native.
With the departure of Mike Ribeiro, Vermette is the Coyotes most versatile center, able to provide quality offense and defense that will likely earn him the mantle of the team's No. 1 center (a position he played last season for all intents and purpose after December). With questions surrounding Martin Hanzal's level of play and the Coyote's lack of depth down the middle, particularly if Sam Gagner moves to a wing, Vermette will carry the majority of the teams offense. Vermette has occasionally shown top line center capability, with two NHL seasons with more than 50 points, including a career year in 2010 when he totaled 27 goals and 65 points while playing over 20 minutes a game with Columbus.
Expecting that kind of season from the 32-year-old probably isn't reasonable, but a 20-25 goal campaign with more than 50 points is certainly possible. Unfortunately, with the current state of the Coyotes' forward corps, it will also be necessary for Arizona to compete for a playoff spot in 2015. With 40 days left until preseason hockey begins, the Yotes will be counting on Vermette to greatly increase the 40 goals he has already scored since that trade. Hopefully, he continues to rise above expectations.