By Ian Mendes
Bryan Murray and Antoine Vermette were about to step inside a room with an arbitrator this morning, when the two sides agreed to a two-year deal at the last minute.
Vermette’s 10 a.m. ET arbitration hearing was avoided when he and his agent Alan Walsh agreed to a two-year contract worth a reported $5.25 million.
Murray was glad to avoid the arbitration process, which can often cause friction between the player and management.
“I don’t think it would have been that nasty,” Murray told reporters via conference call Thursday morning. “But certainly we’re pleased to do it at the number we did. It took a long time to get done, but we’re glad we could avoid it (arbitration).”
As for Vermette, the 26-year-old is happy to be staying with the NHL club that drafted him in 2000. The two sides negotiated into the early morning hours on Thursday in the effort to get a deal done.
“I’m happy. Ottawa is where I want to play hockey and I love the city,” Vermette said after agreeing to the deal. “I love the fan base and the support we have there. We have a good team and I have some good friends as well.”
Murray admitted that a partial stumbling block to getting a deal done was Vermette’s belief that he should be viewed as a top-end forward. He tallied a career-high 24 goals last season, without playing on the club’s top power play unit or top two lines.
With this new contract, the Sens general manager is expecting more out of the talented winger. While he kills penalties, he can expect more of an offensive role, as the club looks fo secondary scoring.
“He has the potential to be more. I think in the next two years, you’ll see better offensive production from him,” said Murray.
“I have a chance there to see what my role (will be) in the next two years and go from there,” added Vermette.
Thursday’s signing of Vermette leaves the Senators with just one restricted free agent left to deal with. But even though Bryan Murray can now devote his full attention to negotiating a contract with Andrej Meszaros, the general manager does not appear optimistic anything will get done with the young defenseman in the near future.
“There’s nothing new on (Meszaros). I guess everyone has a feeling on the money they want,” said Murray. “At this point we’re not close to getting anything done.”
Unlike Vermette, Meszaros does not have any arbitration rights. He is able to accept offer sheets from other clubs, but at this point, no other NHL teams have expressed a serious interest in Meszaros.