The Chicago Blackhawks' focus is surely on the blue line with the trade deadline looming in a few weeks, but the team is reportedly "looking at" Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette as a possible option. That's certainly an intriguing -- albeit unlikely -- name to pop into the 'Hawks rumor mill.
There are some obvious roadblocks to any possible deal bringing Vermette to Chicago, from the crowded roster to the crowded cap, that make this rumor worth downplaying. It also comes from a reporter in Edmonton, which is curious since it involves Chicago and Arizona, and typically you don't hear too many rumblings about activity from the Blackhawks' front office before a deal is made. Usually they're like the Adam Clendening deal, where Twitter is suddenly ablaze as news passes around.
However, Vermette is a very good player and potentially strong fit, and we've seen the two sides tied together in the past. Now that we got our latest rumblings ahead of the trade deadline, could the 'Hawks really find a way to bring the talented center to Chicago?
Why the 'Hawks could do it
This may be the first time we've seen the Blackhawks rumored to be interested in Vermette this month, but it's certainly happened in the past. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman named the 'Hawks and Canadiens as the top two suitors for the Coyotes center in December, and at the time, Puck Daddy noted a deal would make "too much sense" for GM Stan Bowman.
Roughly two months later, Brad Richards hasn't done much more to earn confidence that he's a strong No. 2 center, and the team's final two lines remain unsettled well into the season. Andrew Shaw hasn't been great as the primary third-line center, and the team continues to be hesitant to hand the keys over to 20-year-old Teuvo Teravainen with a championship in mind.
That means Vermette could be a stabilizing force of sorts for the depth chart, bumping down Richards to the third line and shifting Shaw to wing (or out of the organization). It would also give the team another defensively capable center to back up Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger, adding to the flexibility Joel Quenneville would have in making game plans.
So while the team has an abundance of forwards and doesn't necessarily need Vermette, he would undeniably be a strong fit for the roster. He's solid defensively and has 35 points in 58 games for a bad Coyotes team. His possession numbers aren't good, but they were much better before he arrived in Arizona. Surely they could improve again when partnered with a team like the 'Hawks.
The biggest hurdle to any deal would be his $3.75 million cap hit, and it's pretty much a lock that someone like Shaw, Patrick Sharp or Bryan Bickell would need to be shipped out to make it work. However, that could be said for pretty much any major addition the 'Hawks consider over the next couple weeks, and Vermette is among the most appealing.
Why the 'Hawks won't do it
If you only have a certain amount of resources and several needs to fill, which one are you going to choose? As good as Vermette is, it's just hard to see a forward being the Blackhawks' big acquisition near the trade deadline. There's just too much talent already in place and too much need on the blue line.
Would Vermette help the Blackhawks? Absolutely. The reasons explained above still apply, and there's little doubt he makes the team better. However, lots of teams will surely be pursuing Vermette, and most of them won't be saddled with limited cap space and glaring needs elsewhere on the roster. Adding Vermette would mean dealing a significant talent to make room, and while that would offset some of what the 'Hawks would need to send out, it would be unexpected to see the team use its impressive forward depth to acquire some different, slightly more impressive forward depth.
In the simplest sense, adding Vermette would be a luxury, and that's not something the team can really afford right now. The forward corps is just fine -- albeit in flux a tad -- and has more than enough talent to compete with any team in the league. There's also Teravainen in the minors, and his presence could make it easier for the team to slide some of its chips from offense to defense.
As nice as having Vermette would be, it's an unlikely use of assets for a team without a ton of flexibility.
Nothing to see here. It's just too unfathomable that the Blackhawks' marquee addition for the season would be a forward, as talented as Vermette is. If the team does make a major deal near the deadline, one that requires significant salary to be sent out, then it'll address the fact that the team's defensive third pairing is generally a mess.