One of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen and a staple in the Rangers lineup, Keith Yandle is a pretty valuable commodity.
But as far as he and his head coach go, there’s only one place for Yandle — and that’s in New York.
“As soon as I got traded here I was all in, my family was all in,” Yandle said, per the Daily News. “I love my situation here. I love playing here, being here.”
Blueshirts bench boss Alain Vigneault was almost as effusive in his praise of Yandle as Yandle was of playing in the Big Apple. AV said “when Yands is on top of his game moving the puck he’s a very good player,” adding ” I would like him to be a Ranger and help us win.”
Thing is, the situation goes beyond Vigneault and Yandle.
First, there’s the fact the 29-year-old is in the last of a five-year, $26.25 million deal that pays $5.25M annually, meaning he’s primed to hit free agency on July 1. Given he finished first among blueliners with 46 assists last year, and has 23 points through 45 games this year, it’s fair to suggest Yandle will garner a pretty significant payday, regardless of where it comes from.
Back in November, agent Jerry Buckley told the Post there were no talks and no timetable for an extension for Yandle. The Daily News reports there have since bee some discussions between Buckley and Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, but still no timetable.
So, what’s the plan?
As odd as it seems for a club in playoff contention, Yandle could be traded. Part of that stems from the fact that, because of New York’s current salary structure, he might be impossible to retain:
The Coyotes agreed to continue paying half of Yandle’s salary after last year’s trade, so the Rangers are only on the hook this season for $2.625 million. In unrestricted free agency this summer, though, Yandle will command more than his total current salary of $5.25 million, and the Blueshirts already have $15.9 million committed to the contracts of Marc Staal (current no-move clause), Dan Girardi (current no-trade clause) and Ryan McDonagh (captain, not going anywhere).
Dan Boyle’s $4.5 million salary will come off the books, but Boyle plays the right, Yandle the left, and left-handed 2012 first-round pick Brady Skjei ($925K) is a heavy favorite to make the NHL jump next fall.
In this regard, it’s all about asset management. Does Gorton try and recoup something for Yandle, to avoid letting him walk for nothing? Or does Gorton take that risk, and hope that Yandle’s presence will translate into a lengthy playoff run?
Whatever the case, the clock is ticking. The NHL’s trade deadline is just 41 days away.