Earlier today, it was announced that the Florida Panthers have boughten out the final two years of defenseman Keith Yandle’s contract. Yandle is just one of many veteran players to be bought out, with the Minnesota Wild buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter yesterday.
Yandle was initially drafted by the then-Phoenix Coyotes 105th overall at the 2005 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut during the 2006-07 season, and he was with the Coyotes organization until he was traded on March 1st, 2015, to the New York Rangers along with Chris Summers and a 2015 fourth-round pick for John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a 2016 first-round pick, and a 2015 second-round pick.
There haven’t been any reports tying the newly bought-out Yandle to the Arizona Coyotes, but that isn’t going to stop fans thinking about a reunion with the Milton, Massachusetts native.
The Coyotes currently have many holes, and an offensive defenseman like Yandle could definitely slot in.
Yandle is an offensive defenseman whose defensive game isn’t going to set the world on fire. Last season he had 3 goals and 24 assists in 56 games with the Panthers, with 18 of his points coming on the power play. He took a dip last season, but he had over 40 points in his previous seven seasons.
Arizona currently has only three defensemen signed for the upcoming season, Jakob Chychrun, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Ilya Lyubushkin. In addition, there are numerous reports that the Coyotes are looking at trading OEL, which only gives the Coyotes more room.
The Coyotes have struggled to generate offensive generally and on the power play specifically. Last season the team finished 23rd in goals scored with 150 and 13th in power-play percentage behind the Buffalo Sabres.
Yandle could help the Coyotes generate offense while giving the team a veteran presence in the locker room. And based on a recent Craig Morgan article, it doesn’t look like any of the Coyotes veteran defensemen will be returning in the offseason.
It would be interesting to see if fans’ view of Yandle has changed in the six years since he was traded from the Coyotes organization. Yandle’s defensive lapses were a big sore spot for Coyotes fans in the early 2010s, and there was always speculation he would be traded.
But Yandle would likely have a much smaller role if he were to return, likely as a third pairing power-play specialist, hopefully giving people far less to complain about.
Even if he was a lightning rod for criticism at the time, fans should have plenty of fond memories connected with Keith Yandle. He was a member of the team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals and was around for some of the better years in Coyotes franchise history.