The Florida Panthers gave Keith Yandle a lot of money this summer ($44.5 million over seven years, to be exact) and made him one of the biggest free agent signings of the summer.
It should be a great fit for both the team and player because his greatest skill (his ability to produce points, especially on the power play) is perhaps the biggest area of need the Panthers had over the summer.
The Panthers power play was among the worst in the NHL last season (just 23rd in the league during the regular season) and was even worse playoffs (only 2-for-13 in their first round loss to the New York Islanders). Of the options that were realistically available to them over the summer, they couldn’t have added a better player to help fix that.
Yandle recently talked about the Panthers’ power play and its postseason struggles last year, via the Sun Sentinel.
“In the playoffs the killers are more desperate to block shots than the regular season so it’s a whole new beast,” said Yandle, who was ranked third and first respectively among NHL defensemen in power-play points in his last two seasons with Arizona (2013-15).
“We have the big guys who will pay the price in front of the net and guys who are really patient. We have guys who can make good passes so the recipe for us to have a good power play are all there.”
A big factor in the Panthers’ struggles on the man advantage last season is the fact they had next to no offense from their blue line.
No defenseman on the team recorded more than 10 points on the power play. Aaron Ekblad led their defense with nine power play points, while Brian Campbell, who now plays for the Chicago Blackhawks after signing with the team in free agency, was second with eight. As a group Panthers defensemen combined for only 25 points on the power play all season, and only three goals (all of them coming from Ekblad).
Yandle had 22 by himself with the Rangers, and has topped 20 points on the man-advantage in four of the past seven seasons, including three years where he was over 25 points.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks had great success on the power play during the postseason on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, but recent history indicates that a strong power play isn’t necessarily a requirement to win. You have to go back to the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings to find the last time a Stanley Cup champion finished the regular season ranked higher than 14th on the power play.
But just because it is possible to win without a great one, it is still obviously a benefit to get a few extra goals out of it whenever you can. Yandle’s addition to the Panthers’ blue line should help them do just that, and when combined with the Panthers’ ability to score at 5-on-5 (the Panthers were 6th in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals last season) they could have one of the best offenses in the league this year.