The New York Rangers have announced that they are taking Keith Yandle off the trade block. They will move forward with him on the blue line as they make a run for the cup that has eluded them for more than three decades.
After poor early returns, Yandle has lived up to the billing as of late. He had been touted as the most valuable piece available at the trade deadline last year and cost the Rangers a young talent in Anthony Duclair along with a first-round pick. Those lofty goals were tough to live up to for most of his time on Broadway. However, as the defenseman rounds out his first full year in blue he has finally come into his own.
By no coincidence in the same time frame that the Rangers have played their best hockey, winning 10 of 14, Yandle has emerged as a key cog with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists). This has come with increased minutes as Captain Ryan McDonagh has been lost to consecutive injuries.
In the 51 games prior to McDonagh’s concussion, Yandle averaged 19:11 minutes each outing. In eight games where the Rangers were missing a key defenseman, McDonagh for seven and Staal for one, he has managed six points while averaging 24:03 minutes per game. His increased exposure has even raised questions of the defensive lines once everyone is healthy.
Increased production in increased minutes makes sense for a guy who was a top unit guy in Phoenix, or Arizona, before coming east. With the chance to shine, Yandle has done just that. His value is even higher with his time spent on the Rangers perpetually streaky powerplay. For Yandle, one out of three points this year have come with a man advantage.
Where things get complicated is this offseason. The first priority for Rangers fans and management alike is the playoffs. However if the team doesn’t plan on resigning Yandle, who is likely to demand a high price at 29 years old coming off a 5-year $26.5-million deal, then this is simply a rental and they are foregoing his high value if traded. If they lose Yandle for nothing and don’t have new rings to show for it, they gave up Duclair and a top round pick with nothing to show for it only 18 months later.
For now, that is all conjecture. The Rangers are chasing championships while their window is still open. Since McDonagh went down it has become abundantly clear that they are a better team with Keith Yandle. That’ll do, for now.