This evening, Pierre LeBrun announced that Kieth Yandle officially signed with the Florida Panthers. Just days ago, the Panthers acquired the rights to the impending free agent from the Rangers for two picks, a 6th rounder in this year’s draft and a conditional 4th rounder, next season, if he were to sign with his new team. It seems that the Panthers will be giving both picks away after all.
Keith Yandle has agreed to terms with the Florida Panthers: seven years and $6.35 million average per season
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 23, 2016
This is an incredible pickup for the Cats. Not only do they have the cap space to make such a move without putting a strain on signing and extending other players such as Vincent Trocheck, Aaron Ekblad, and Reilly Smith, but this also helps to prove the mentality of the new ownership and the positive direction in which the team is heading.
— –George Richards– (@GeorgeRichards) June 23, 2016
Jumping straight into analysis, I made a simple graph of the Panthers’ current defensive core as well as additional players who put in time last season. Looking at the relationship of time-on-ice to points it’s clear that Yandle considerably improves the back six. He’s a powerful player with stamina and keen offensive abilities—especially when it’s needed. Last season, almost half of his points were earned as assists on the powerplay.
Looking at the stats, it seems that the Panthers defense will look significantly different next season, although not for the worse. With the midseason acquisition of Jakub Kindl and impressive playoff performance of Michael Matheson, the loss of Eric Gudbranson (and possibly Brian Campbell) will be mitigated with this move. That, on top of the already stellar Aaron Ekblad and much-improved Kulikov, mixed with another year of offense from Barkov, Trocheck, and Jagr, will mean that the Panthers could have a great chance of grabbing first place once again.