The price of success: Vermette, Richards face tough decision to return

SHARE The price of success: Vermette, Richards face tough decision to return

Antoine Vermette wants to come back.

“Obviously,” the Blackhawks center said Wednesday, two days after the Hawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. “You want to win. We’ve done that. That’s something we’re going to cherish for the rest of our life. It’s special.”

We’ll see just how special it is. As much as Vermette wants to return to the Hawks, the impending salary-cap crunch makes it virtually impossible for the Hawks to re-sign him at the going rate ($3.75 million last season). If he wants to return to Chicago, it’s going to have to be a deal closer to the Hawks’ price than his own.

“I’m not there in my thought process,” Vermette said at the United Center press room, where players met the media on “locker clean-out” day. “I know it’s going to come quickly. You want to win as a guy. But decisions will be made. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this team.”

With the Hawks sure to be in a salary-cap squeeze, that’s a delicate offseason quandary for Hawks general manager Stan Bowman this offseason. Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger are high-priority free-agents. But almost everyone is going to have sign for a team-friendly deal to stay, including first-year Hawks Vermette, Brad Richards, Andrew Desjardins — each of whom ended up playing a key role in the latest Cup victory.

All three almost certainly can sign elsewhere for more money. But the Hawks give them a chance to be a part of something special. How much is that worth?

“I’m not that good at math, so I have no idea what’s going to happen here,” said Richards, who played the 2014-15 season at a bargain rate of $2 million after the Rangers bought out the last six years of his nine-year, $60 million contract last summer.

“I just know I’m happy and whatever’s going to happen, it’s out of my control. We’ll see if they want to have a discussion about some kind of opportunity — obviously I’m going to listen with what just happened [winning the Cup].”

The Blackhawks aren’t the only contender that players such as Richards, Vermette and Desjardins can play for next season. And other contenders likely will have more cap room than the Hawks. But after being a part of the Hawks’ third Stanley Cup in six years, all three veterans know they are a part of something special.

“There’s going to be a lot of cool things happening here next year,” Richards said, “with the banner raising and just being on a team [with a chance to] repeat —that’s pretty special, too.

“We’ll see. It’s not like last summer. I’m in a different frame of mind. I’m happy. I knew that it could be just for one year [with the Hawks] and if that is, it was an unbelievable year. We’ll see how it goes.”

Bowman gave a particularly hearty endorsement for Desjardins, a fourth-line center who also happens to be one of the most affordable free agents.

“We would love to bring him back,” Bowman said. “It was a nice surprise the way Desjardins played a huge role for us. I think he played a bigger role than we probably expected.”

Without a lot of money to throw around, Bowman is looking for veterans who value the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup more than the chance to max out on a contract. For what it’s worth, the only player to leave the Hawks and win a Stanley Cup in the Kane-Toews era is Colin Fraser (with the Kings in 2012).

“I wish you were their agents. That would make it a lot easier,” he said when asked about that negotiating tack. “In this case, hopefully guys want to be a part of something special here. We’d love to bring guys back. It’ll be a challenge financially.

“Obviously the desire for players is to win. That’s why they play. So there’s always a point — what is enough for them? And that’s something I can’t answer.

“But we know that all of our guys that have been here for a long time, they all sacrificed. They all took less money because they wanted to be part of something special. They probably all left money on the table. But I think if you talk to them , they’re pretty excited right now with the group they were part of, as opposed to getting every last nickel.”

The Latest
In an expansion of its Chicago operations, the company is leasing space from developer Sterling Bay.
The Obama Foundation reported on its new IRS 990 that in 2021, the foundation collected $159.6 million, down from $171 million in 2020.
Students from multiple city schools got together to create a mosaic of the Ukrainian flag — created with nearly 5,000 cereal boxes — to break a world record.
University of Oregon President Michael Schill will replace former president-elect Rebecca Blank, who stepped down after learning of a cancer diagnosis.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus has continued to call his injury “day-to-day” and reiterated Thursday that he should be back soon.