Panthers GM: Acquiring rights to pending UFA Yandle ‘was a risk worth taking’

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The Florida Panthers went out Monday and acquired the negotiating rights to defenseman Keith Yandle, a pending unrestricted free agent coming off a 47-point regular season with the New York Rangers.

The move cost them a sixth-round pick this year and a conditional pick in 2017, reported to be a fourth-round pick if Yandle signs in Florida, as per Darren Dreger of TSN.

Panthers GM Tom Rowe said later in a conference call that his assistant general managers Eric Joyce and Steve Werier were, as of Monday evening, negotiating a contract with Yandle’s agent.

“We wouldn’t have made the trade if we weren’t confident we could come to a conclusion and get him into our system,” said Rowe.

“I thought it was a risk worth taking given the ability of the player, the way the game’s going and the way we were able to increase our possession numbers under (head coach Gerard Gallant) was real impressive. And we thought adding a player of Keith’s ability was going to make us that much more a playoff team and a serious contender going forward.”

Having put up three 50-point seasons in the NHL, Yandle’s puck moving ability could be a huge boost to a Panthers team stocked with talented young forwards.

While bringing in the rights of one pending UFA, the Panthers have another blue liner — Brian Campbell — at the end of his current contract and approaching free agency.

Rowe said he believes Campbell, 37, will test free agency, which would reiterate his thoughts from last month.

“We had to go with our next phase of our plan and we felt Keith was a real good target to go after,” said Rowe.

The Panthers are coming off a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division in the regular season, but a first-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders.

By acquiring Yandle, Rowe believes the organization is showing its fan base it is ready to become a contender.

“I think it’s a sign to the fan base that we’re real serious about winning the Stanley Cup,” said Rowe.

“We want to build on the momentum we started last year and continue growing. We want the players to also know we’re real serious about winning and want to be a consistent playoff team.”

Other notes on the Panthers blue line situation:

— Rowe said the Panthers “are not shopping” 25-year-old defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. It was recently reported that the Boston Bruins wanted Kulikov, who has one more year left on his deal with a cap hit of $4,333,333 before he’s a pending unrestricted free agent.

— Prospect defenseman Ian McCoshen, Florida’s second-round pick in 2013, could make the Panthers roster out of training camp, said Rowe. “We like him that much. We think he’s a big, big piece of what we’re trying to do.” McCoshen finished his junior year at Boston College, with six goals and 21 points in 40 games, before recently signing with the Panthers.