Stanley Cup champion Antoine Vermette glad to be back with Arizona Coyotes
Really, things could not have worked out much better for both the Arizona Coyotes or Antoine Vermette in terms of the in-season trade that sent the veteran center to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Coyotes, who were headed for one of the worst seasons in franchise history, acquired a first-round pick along with defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck. Vermette, who was set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the season, went on to help his new team win the Stanley Cup.
The center has since returned to the Coyotes, signing a two-year deal on July 1.
It’s about is much of a win-win as you will ever find.
“It’s a dream come true,” Vermette told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday of winning the title. “When you’re a kid you’re dreaming about that day, and every year at that time of year you’re watching, you have some friends on some other teams and you see the emotion and how much it means for the guys, and suddenly the emotion comes up.
“It’s a very thrilling experience, it really is amazing.”
Though Vermette’s time in Chicago certainly ended well, it was not exactly a smooth transition to the Windy City. In 19 regular season games with the team he notched just three assists, posting a minus-2 to go along with six penalty minutes.
He turned things on in the postseason, however, with four goals and three assists, posting a plus-five. He scored the winning goal in both Game 1 and Game 5 of the Final.
Vermette said his acclimation to the Blackhawks took longer than expected, but even while he struggled his confidence never waned.
“One thing I was sure in my mind, was regardless of my position or whatever they see in me and what happened in the past, day one of the playoffs I knew I was going to bring it to a different level,” he said. “And I was striving and hoping for this moment. As a player, that’s the moment where you enjoy the most and your excitement level is up to the roof and everything kind of takes care of itself.
“I was looking for that moment and from this, I think the playoff run, overall, went well.”
And now he’s back in Arizona, with a team he was never looking to leave in the first place. Though he did not necessarily plan on returning to the desert when the season ended, Vermette said he always felt it could be an option if things did not work out with the Blackhawks.
“Obviously I had a great experience in Phoenix,” he said. “This is a great place for my family, and obviously I have a lot of friends, not only on the team but within the organization. It’s been nothing but a great experience over there. It speaks volumes.
“I kept my house, fully knowing that it could be a possibility. So I didn’t leave fully knowing for sure I’d be back, but that being said, I knew it was not automatically I wasn’t coming back. I knew it could happen, and I’m glad I’m coming back. This is a great decision for us.”
In 215 games over parts of four seasons with the Coyotes prior to last season’s trade, Vermette tallied 53 goals and 58 assists along with 130 penalty minutes.
The 32-year-old will be expected to help lead a young team that finished with the second-lowest point total in the entire NHL last season.
Along with Vermette, the team has also added veterans Boyd Gordon, Nicklas Grossman, Brad Richardson, Dakota Mermis, Zbynek Michalek, Steve Downey and Dustin Jeffrey, among others.
Even still, expectations for the team are still not particularly high, though Vermette said he isn’t too concerned with whether or not people think the team is going to contend for big things in 2015-16.
“I always kind of take the analysts’ or experts’ opinions a little lightly, as far as that regard,” he said. “Every year there’s teams that are not where — you look at Calgary this year, I don’t think anybody saw them being that successful.
“So that being said, we added some good veteran players, guys who have been successful in their own respective careers, and you have them mixed with young guys coming in, and I think it’s very exciting, the group, that’s the option that we could get there and hopefully we bring excitement. And I’m sure the guys, after last year, they want to build on something much more positive and constructive.”