Acquired by the New York Rangers in advance of the 2015 trade deadline, Keith Yandle has yet to live up to his billing as one of the league’s premier puck-movers and offensive defenceman in the city that never sleeps. It’s looking less and less likely that he’ll have the opportunity to next season, too.
According to Larry Brooks of The New York Post, the Rangers are likely to do their due diligence on finding a way to create a fit within their salary structure. It just doesn’t sound as though there are enough dollars, or openings, to make it the sensible decision.
Though the relationship Yandle has shared with the Rangers for a season-plus has fallen short of expectations for everyone involved, disappointment is a relative term though and this is still a premier offensive defender. Though the Canucks acquisition of Erik Gudbranson addresses their patchwork blue line if only so slightly, there is still room for a player with Yandle’s pedigree and poise moving the puck.
The Scouting Report:
Yandle’s struggles defending are well documented, though likely overblown — his defensive value more than makes up for his defensive impact. Regardless, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Yandle has been one of the league’s most productive defensemen over the course of six-plus seasons. Only Erik Karlsson and Duncan Keith have produced more offence from the blue line than Yandle and his 325 points since the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
Beyond Yandle’s most obviously positive quality as a point producer, he’s an excellent puck mover. While I haven’t added the cumulative totals for every Rangers game I’ve tracked, I can tell you with the utmost certainty that Yandle was a strongly positive force in transition, with an abnormally high number of carry-in entries at even-strength. Based on Dimitri Filipovic’s findings for the post-season, it appears as though he’s every bit as proficient at defending the neutral zone as advancing play through it.
Here’s a list of the players breaking up the highest rate of attempted entries against this postseason: pic.twitter.com/9t8iaH84CK
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 18, 2016
Assuming everything remains constant, the Canucks will enter next season with eight defenceman who will either be on one-way deals or require waivers to play in the AHL. Something’s got to give. Likely by way of trade, but finding a suitor for some of these middling pieces will prove difficult. Vancouver would only exacerbate this problem with the addition of another defenceman — though they seem content to entertain the possibility of retaining pending unrestricted free agent, Dan Hamhuis.
Benning : “We are still talking to Dan, we would still like to have Dan on board so we will try and figure that out.” #Canucks
— NEWS 1130 Sports (@NEWS1130Sports) May 27, 2016
If the goal is to add the best defenceman, Hamhuis isn’t the most suitable option on the open market. In fact, one could reasonably argue that Yandle is entirely deserving of that distinction. Like Hamhuis, Yandle is a left-shot, that plays the left side. The Canucks appear set though with Luca Sbisa, Ben Hutton and Alexander Edler occupying positions on that flank — which says nothing of Andrey Pedan, who is himself waiver eligible.
Financially the Canucks are in a position to compete for Yandle’s services assuming he hits market. It’s fair to wonder even if the Rangers misuse and generally poor deployment of Yandle have taken a significant chunk of change out of his new deal. I wouldn’t expect anything more than $6-million or less than $5-million all the same. The Canucks can afford that. They just have to decide if that’s an area of need worth prioritizing in the form of dollars and term.
Yandle represents a darkhorse candidate for the Canucks in free agency, but that says little of his quality as a defenceman. The Canucks have a logjam on the blue line, particularly on the left side. There will be logistical hurdles aplenty if the Canucks aim to land the prize free agent defenceman. Perhaps they trade one of Sbisa or Pedan, though I would suggest that’s highly unlikely.
All this is to say that while Yandle represents a sizeable upgrade on any non-Edler defender on the left side of the Canucks defence, they might not be able to accommodate the upgrade. It’s a shame, though, because his skating ability matches with some of what Matt Bartkowski offered — except without the constant blunders and with added offence.