Antoine Vermette Re-Signs with Ottawa in Another Murray Hallway Deal

Spencer CallaghanAnalyst IJuly 31, 2008

Another year, another last-minute hallway deal to avoid arbitration for Brian Murray.

After having done the same thing with Chris Kelly last season, Murray shook hands with Antoine Vermette in the hallway leading to the room where only a few minutes later, an arbitration hearing would have been held.

The deal is a two-year, $5.525 million agreement that will pay Vermette $2.525 million this season and $3 million next season for a total cap hit of $2.763 million.

The deal will bring Vermette right up to his eligibility as an unrestricted free agent, and ends a long—and often very public—negotiation, in which it is believed Vermette was seeking a long-term deal.

While neither side got exactly what it wanted, the deal helps bring into focus the Senators' 2008-09 roster.

The question remains—can Vermette step up to earn and thrive in a top-six role, something that he has been unable to do so far in his career?

The deal is probably the best thing Ottawa could have hoped for. It contains a decent salary level and contract length, and allows them time to better judge if Vermette is the type of player that can be considered part of the long-term corps.

Though Vermette is a fan favourite and has great skills, he has often had difficulty putting the full package together when given the opportunity to shine with the Sens' top players.

While Vermette is a skilled, defensively-minded forward and penalty killer, the Sens were reluctant to take a chance on a long-term deal until Vermette proved that he could add some more offensive production and consistency to his game.

Personally, I think Vermette has it in him—and could very well be in line for a big payday when his two-year deal expires, as two-way forwards with great hands and blistering speed are rare and highly valued.

However, the question becomes this—in two years, will the likes of O'Brien, Foligno, or even Zubov have developed to such an extent as to make Vermette expendable?

What Murray did in that hallway today was buy some time, along with two years of service for a player who could prove to be one of the most underpaid in the league by the time his contract is up.