On March 2, 2015, the New York Rangers acquired Keith Yandle, Chris Summers, and a 2016 4th round pick in exchange for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a lottery-protected first-round draft pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2015. In addition, the Arizona Coyotes retained 50 percent of Yandle’s $5.75 million dollar salary. While many Rangers fans were upset over the loss of popular prospect Anthony Duclair, the Rangers were able to acquire a 28 year old defenseman who is a well-known for his ability to move the puck, specifically on the power play.
Despite leading the Arizona Coyotes with 41 points prior to being traded, Yandle seemed to struggle on the Rangers, as Yandle only managed 11 points after being traded to the Rangers. As the playoffs started, Yandle did not have much of an impact in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he registered only two assists. As the playoffs went on, Yandle improved, as he made his impact felt in the series against the Washington Capitals. Yandle registered only 2 points in the overall series, but these were two extremely critical points.
It was Yandle who made the pass to Derek Stepan, who set up Chris Kreider’s game tying and season saving goal in Game 5 against the Capitals. It was also Keith Yandle who made the pass off of the faceoff to Dan Girardi, who blasted the puck on net, where Derek Stepan was able to put home the rebound and send the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Eastern Conference Finals is where Yandle really had an impact, as Yandle recorded seven points in seven games in the series. As the playoffs went on, Yandle’s production greatly improved and he was all over the ice in the Tampa Bay series, even in the crushing Game 5 and Game 7 losses. Every time the Rangers were in the offensive zone, it seemed that Yandle was always present.
Yandle finished the postseason with 2 goals and 9 assists good for 11 points in 21 games, which is not the best stat line, however as previously stated, Yandle’s production improved over the course of the postseason, and was a factor in the Ranger’s three games in Tampa Bay, as Yandle had 7 points in Games 3, 4, and 6.
Overall, Yandle had an average postseason, improving as the magnitude of the games increased. Yandle finished fourth on the team with 11 points in the postseason, and was the highest scoring defenseman for the Rangers. Some people seem to have forgotten that Yandle was not brought to the Rangers to be a top defenseman, as the Rangers already have Ryan Mcdonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Dan Boyle. Yandle was brought to the Rangers to aid in power play production, which he was unable to do, as he was forced to adapt to a new system. With the injuries to the majority of the Rangers defense, Yandle had to really step up his defense and make that a higher priority than point production, as Mcdonagh, Staal, and Girardi were all severely limited physically as the Tampa Bay series went on.
While Yandle only has one year left on his contract, the Rangers should make signing him to a long term deal a priority for several reasons. Yandle has a great role on this team with his experience in leading the power play, as he was able to make strides in head coach Alain Vigneault’s system as the postseason progressed. Yandle provides some added defensive depth for the Rangers next season, which is critical especially in light of all of the injuries to defenseman that the Rangers suffered.
In spite of all of the Rangers defensive depth, only Mcdonagh, Yandle, and Boyle are considered to be offensive minded defensemen, with Mcdonagh picking up his scoring the last few seasons. Dan Boyle is also going to be 39 years old next season, and cannot be expected to supply much offense. Therefore, Yandle’s offensive skills will be much needed on a Rangers team that has a very inconsistent offense.
Yandle can be seen as a critical piece to a Rangers team going forward that knows what it takes to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and knows that the time to do so is now. Lock up Yandle so that he does not have to have contract negotiations looming over his head next season and let him continue to develop in Vigneault’s system as the Rangers prepare to once again chase the Stanley Cup that has eluded them since 1994.