Defenseman Tyson Barrie did exactly what he set out to do this season: join a team that could up his offensive numbers and give him an opportunity to extend his NHL career, while making as much money as possible and getting an offer from the highest bidder. It’s worked so well that Barrie may have priced himself out of the Edmonton Oilers future plans and GM Ken Holland will likely need to look in another direction.
There is a chance the Oilers and Barrie talk extension and Barrie decides the fit is best with Edmonton. That said, it’s more likely Barrie takes a higher offer from another team and the Oilers are forced to find a way to affordably add a piece to their blue line, while also solving some salary cap questions with other pending unrestricted free agents.
With all that mind, Holland should look towards the Florida Panthers and a player like Keith Yandle.
The Oilers Aren’t Sure About Klefbom
Edmonton’s potential need for an offensively gifted left-shot defenseman will hinge on the health of Oscar Klefbom. If he’s ready to return, the Oilers will have Darnell Nurse and Klefbom as their one-two punch on the left side and that’s a pretty decent mix.
However, if Klefbom is picked up by Seattle in the NHL Expansion Draft, isn’t ready to roll or if the Oilers aren’t confident he’ll stay healthy throughout the season, the Oilers will need another option that won’t break the bank, but give the team some reliable offense. So too, if Klefbom is out, Edmonton could use a transitional player until they find a young defenseman who can make the jump to the NHL, while ensuring the team is still a playoff contender.
Why Keith Yandle?
At 34 years old, Yandle is certainly older than Barrie was. Still, he’s proven to be a fairly reliable defenseman. The Panthers are keen to move him and he seems to be on the outs with that organization, but it might just take a new situation and a different environment for him to get back to some of his old numbers.
Fans who watched Barrie rebound in Edmonton know first hand that it’s entirely possible for a player who has been written off by an NHL team to bounce back and have a fantastic season. If a veteran offensive-defenseman like Yandle has stars around him to help elevate his game, there’s no telling what kind of numbers he can produce.
Like Barrie, Yandle is a power play specialist. Over the past three seasons, he’s spent more than double the time on the man-advantage than any other Panthers’ player and he’s wracked up assists with ease. He’s not a big goal scorer, but he’s a premiere set-up man for a player like Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
Yandle Can Be Had at a Decent Price
Yandle stays healthy. His iron-man run shows the Oilers they won’t have to worry about investing money in a player that won’t remain in the lineup at his age. And, while he has a full no-move clause, it’s extremely likely the defenseman would be open to a trade after being scratched in the playoffs by the Panthers.
This is a player looking for an opportunity and like Barrie saw when he chose the Oilers, Yandle may see Edmonton as a place to play and get some good minutes.
An argument can be made that other teams will be interested in Yandle, but a no-move clause might work out well for the Oilers if Yandle’s priority is a good on-ice situation. The player can essentially pick and choose where he wants to go and if the Oilers are on his radar, that’s good news for Holland.
Yandle has two more seasons on his contract paying him $6.35 million and if the Oilers can convince the Panthers to retain 50% of his salary, while not giving much up in return, they could land a decent second-pair left-shot option for $3.175 million. Yandle scored 27 points in 56 games this season and that was considered a low. He potted 45 points in 2019-20, 62 points in 2018-19 and 56 points in 2017-18. At just over $3 million, that’s tremendous value and value is what the Oilers are looking for in an ultra-important offseason.
The Drawback to Yandle
There are a couple potential snags in any Yandle trade talk. First, it’s whether or not the weather, the city and the travel is a factor for the player. Yandle has spent the last few seasons in Florida, Arizona and New York. Edmonton may not be his radar, despite the players he could play with.
Second, like Barrie, Yandle is seen as somewhat of a defensive liability. Barrie proved to be a bit better than people gave him credit for and he ate a ton of minutes for the Oilers, but Yandle isn’t as likely to do so as he ages. The Oilers will really need to watch his deployment and take advantage of his strengths, while hiding any potential weaknesses.
But, if Holland can make the numbers work, head coach Dave Tippett will have the luxury of rolling out Yandle at the right times and in the right situations. There are certainly lesser options out there on the marketplace and it gives the Oilers flexibility without a really long-term commitment.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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