What has now become the annual Keith Yandle trade rumors is back at it again. Last year, the 6-1, 190 pound defenseman was a hair away from being dealt to Philadelphia. This year, the Detroit Red Wings appear to be the latest team serious about acquiring the top-4 defenseman. Will the Coyotes look to get back into post-season play with their star defenseman, or will they opt to boost their roster by dealing Keith Yandle?
What’s In It For Phoenix?
With seven seasons under his belt, many consider Keith Yandle to be an elite NHL defenseman. The two-time All-Star is coming off of his second career 50-point season, scoring eight goals, while adding 45 assists. His latest successful season marked the sixth consecutive season in which Yandle notched at least 30 points. And despite being snubbed for the Olympic games in Sochi, the 27-year-old possesses the puck handling ability that all teams drool over when fantasizing about optimizing their own blue line.
When former Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren turned down a deal that would’ve sent Yandle to the Flyers in exchange for James van Riemsdyk, the Coyotes ended up benefitting more than they ever anticipated. Why, you ask? Value.
Not only did the Yotes obtain Yandle for another season, they were also granted the advantage of witnessing the result of the trade that Holmgren eventually included van Riemsdyk in – the Luke Schenn for JVR deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I keep saying this. The day the Flyers made the trade for Luke Schenn, the Coyotes offered Yandle to them hours before at the draft and GM Paul Holmgren turned them down. Same deal as what Toronto got.” — Tim Panaccio, CSN Philly
The result of the lopsided trade that rewarded Toronto revealed that Coyotes GM Don Maloney could and should get more in return for Yandle’s services. And with a little over $16 million of cap space currently available, unloading Yandle’s $5.250 million cap hit for the next two seasons would undeniably free up enough space for Maloney to either shop top shelf, or add more value to the roster in numbers.
“We can’t look at our group now and say we’re going to turn around and play in the finals,” said Maloney. “But we think if we make the right decisions, we can be a playoff team next year. And once we get there, just like we saw a couple years ago, anything can happen.”
Dealing Keith Yandle to Detroit?
After watching van Riemsdyk evolve into valid offensive threat in Toronto, it is conceived that Yandle’s value has skyrocketed. Especially for a slick puck handling defenseman who brings confirmed effectiveness on the power play.
“Here’s the sobering fact about a possible Yandle trade: The Coyotes are going to want the moon in exchange for so valuable an asset. At the very least, they would demand one of the following young players — Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Anthony Mantha — and a high-end draft pick. Demands might even extend to a second player, such as Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm or Jakub Kindl.” — Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
While Detroit’s power play ranked at an ordinary 18th in the league, adding Yandle to a defensive core that features Niklas Kronwall would certainly further improve a defense that yielded 2.70 goals per game last season. The Wings seem to value Yandle’s skill set over their need of a right-handed stick since it’s now Yandle that has captured the attention of Red Wings GM Ken Holland over options such as, Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle, or Anton Stralman – for now anyway.
“If they are unable to land a top-four defenseman through free agency and Yandle were available through trade, I’m sure the Red Wings would be interested. Even though he shoots left, he’s a skilled player who would boost the power play. Yandle, 27, has two years remaining on his contract at a $5.25 million cap hit.” — Ansar Khan, Michigan Live
Phoenix’s asking price with Detroit is evidently much. And if Gustav Nyquist is the determining factor in dealing Keith Yandle to Detroit, this scenario can simply be chalked up as nothing more than another superfluous rumor. But if a trade can still, in fact, be hammered out, including a young talent like Tomas Jurco with a first-round draft pick, it’d be difficult to see Holland passing on the opportunity.
“I’m moving along slow to keep our options open,” said Holland. “We’ll see what’s out there via trade. But we feel good about our team, and our fallback position is our kids.
“We’re trying to move kids in, and also have the right amount of vets.”
Other Potential Destinations
Even if the Coyotes and Red Wings fail to turn a deal, a slew of other organizations have continued interest in dealing for Keith Yandle. Ottawa, Montreal, and Edmonton have all shown interest in the Coyotes’ leading scorer last season. And with Jason Spezza’s request to be moved out of Ottawa, Yandle could find himself in a favorable situation, sharing the blue line with Erik Karlsson.
“Senators GM Bryan Murray finally confirmed that Jason Spezza is indeed on the trading block and that the longtime Senators forward has requested a trade. Spezza has been linked to the Anaheim Ducks by many hockey insiders and that makes tons of sense considering both teams’ needs and financial situations. But I’d keep an eye on the Phoenix Coyotes and defenseman Keith Yandle. According to multiple NHL sources, a bevy of teams are once again inquiring about Yandle who is a regular on the rumor circuit heading into the trade deadline. The Coyotes could definitely use a center of Spezza’s ilk and there could be a match there as Spezza might like going to a non-hockey market where he doesn’t have to deal with the scrutiny he did in Ottawa.” — James Murphy, XN Sports
Another factor that could play into whether Yandle gets dealt, and to where, is the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. The Coyotes currently hold the 12th overall pick, and Maloney is open to anything. Maloney could trade up or down, or stand pat.
“We like the top end of the first round,” said Maloney. “If we could get ourselves up into the top four or five picks we’d certainly look to do it. I don’t know how realistic that is for us. I think we’re more inclined to move down from our pick at No. 12 depending on how it flows… These decisions all come down to the draft table and what the flow is like and what the phone calls are like.”
If Maloney receives the right package from either Edmonton, who owns the third overall pick, or even Philadelphia, who sits at 17, there’s a good chance Yandle will be a part of such agreement.
Why Trade An Elite Defenseman?
With defense coming at a premium in today’s NHL landscape, why would Don Maloney be actively shopping Yandle? The answer may be found in various areas of the organization. The Yotes have several NHL ready defensemen waiting to crack the lineup, joining Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who will be entering the second year of his six-year, $33 million contract.
Another explanation is Phoenix’s lackluster scoring. The Coyotes’ 2.56 goals per game left them 20th in the league, behind teams such as, the Predators, Islanders and Maple Leafs. And with the likelihood of Radim Vrbata joining a new team, it should come as no surprise that Yandle, and his hefty cap hit, are considered expendable.
“If the Coyotes are going to make progress, they need to upgrade their scoring. They were a middle-of-the-road possession team, with good goaltending, but finishing 20th in goals scored was enough of a difference to prevent them from getting into the postseason.
“Additionally, they face the prospect of losing their highest-scoring forward, Radim Vrbata, as a free agent, so this is a situation that ought to be addressed. How might they do it? Well, internally, the Coyotes might turn to top prospect Max Domi, a skilled centre or a winger like Lucas Lessio might be able to make the jump, but those moves would hardly offset the loss of a proven NHL scorer.” — Scott Cullen, TSN
This explains their demand for Nyquist, or the sensible match for Spezza. And although the Coyotes certainly would’ve benefitted from acquiring James van Riemsdyk last season, their patience will undoubtedly be rewarded should they land a scoring threat like Spezza.
It’s not a forgone conclusion, though, that the Yotes are fully committed to dealing Keith Yandle. Fortunately, we’ll more than likely find out sooner rather than later.