On Tuesday afternoon, the Blackhawks acquired veteran center Artem Anisimov from the Columbus as part of the blockbuster trade sending Brandon Saad to the Jackets.
On Wednesday, as free agency opened across the NHL, it became clear that Anisimov would figure prominently into the Hawks center depth during the 2015-16 season. Anisimov, who has one year remaining on his current contract, signed a five-year extension with the Blackhawks.
The current salary for Anisimov, and locking him up for five additional seasons, made it apparent that the Hawks wouldn’t retain their two veteran rentals from the 2014-15 Stanley Cup championship roster. And, as contracts were announced throughout the day, those rentals found money elsewhere.
Some Hawks fans have already started asking why the Hawks would re-sign Anisimov when, in theory, they “could have kept Vermette.”
Before we compare the players, let’s set one thing straight. Vermette was an unrestricted free agent who was a questionable healthy scratch during these playoffs. He didn’t necessarily want to stay in Chicago; Arizona has been his home since he was traded to the Coyotes by, ironically, the Blue Jackets at the deadline in 2012.
Anisimov is a player Chicago GM Stan Bowman had an eye on for a number of years; there were whispers the Hawks had interest in him before he was traded to the Jackets as part of the deal sending Rick Nash to the Rangers in late June of 2012.
When he was acquired, Anisimov brought with him a cap hit of approximately $3.28M for the 2015-16 season. That number is almost a half million less than Vermette signed for today, a dollar amount that is crucial for a Blackhawks team may be counting pennies come October.
So beyond the immediate cap relief Anisimov brings with him, let’s now look at the players on the ice.
Opening Night Age: 27
Last 4 years
2011-12: 79 games, 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 pts
2012-13: 36 games, 11 goals, 7 assists, 18 pts
2013-14: 81 games, 22 goals, 17 assists, 39 pts
2014-15: 52 games, 7 goals, 20 assists, 27 pts
Total: 247 games, 56 goals, 64 assists, 120 points, 48.2% faceoffs
2014-15 Salary Cap: $3.28M
2015-16 Salary Cap: $4.55M
Opening Night Age: 33
Last 4 years
2011-12: 82 games, 11 goals, 26 assists, 37 pts
2012-13: 48 games, 13 goals, 8 assists, 21 pts
2013-14: 82 games, 24 goals, 21 assists, 45 pts
2014-15: 82 games, 13 goals, 25 assists, 38 pts
Total: 294 games, 61 goals, 80 assists, 141 points, 56.3% faceoffs
2014-15 Salary Cap: $3.75M
2015-16 Salary Cap: $3.75M
From a production perspective, the difference between these two isn’t significant. In fact, Anisimov has a slightly higher point-per-game average (0.486) than than Vermette (0.479) over the last four seasons, but he missed a big part of last season with a torn triceps.
On the ice, the most significant difference between these two veteran centers is at the dot.
Vermette has been one of the better faceoff men in the game over the last decade, and showed his abilities late in the playoffs after initially struggling to find a groove in Chicago. Over the last four regular seasons, Vermette has won 3,004 0f 5,339 opportunities at the dot – an enormous number.
Anisimov, on the other hand, has shown improvement but isn’t the dominant draw artist that Vermette has been. He has won 988 of 2,048 over the last four years. However, his win percentage had increased from 46.7 to 48.9 to 49.3 in the three seasons before injuries derailed last season in Columbus.
Off the ice, the most significant difference between Anisimov and Vermette is their age. The fact that the Hawks’ new center will be six years younger than Arizona’s returning veteran is a significant move for the Hawks, who won a Cup this past season with two centers on the wrong side of 30 in Richards and Vermette.
If Anisimov can stay healthy and improves in the faceoff circle like others who have come through Chicago before him, he could be a strong addition for the next six years.