[UPDATE: Yandle will play Sunday night versus Chicago.]
The Panthers have yet to open their season and Keith Yandle is already in the doghouse.
It’s looking like the veteran defenseman will sit when the Panthers play Sunday night against the Blackhawks. During TSN’s Insider Trading segment this week, Frank Seravalli reported that Yandle has fallen out of favor with the organization. The move by Joel Quenneville to make him a healthy scratch would be a significant one as the 34-year-old has two years left on a deal that carries a $6.35M cap hit.
Quenneville opted for a blue line of MacKenzie Weegar–Aaron Ekblad, Riley Stillman–Anton Stralman, and Radko Gudas–Markus Nutivaara during Friday’s practice. Brady Keeper and Gustav Forsling were the extra pair during the first session, leaving Yandle to work with the smaller second group.
Yandle told George Richards of Florida Hockey Now this week that the team has not approached him to waive his no-move clause.
“I was effectively brought in for change,” Panthers GM Bill Zito told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. “I had considerable meetings with the hockey staff and made some decisions to move forward in the best interest of putting the most competitive 20-man unit on the ice every night. And that’s what we decided we were going with, the best collection of 20 pieces to make the whole the greatest sum of the parts. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Yandle still scoring
It’s not as if Yandle’s production has cratered. He had 45 points in 69 games last season after 41, 56, and 62 in his first three years in Florida. He remains a big contributor on the power play with the fourth-most power play points (96) among defensemen since 2016-17. If Zito is seeking change, some of that might include moving salary out. But with the no-move clause, healthy scratching a contributing player is one way to persuade him to open that door.
Should Yandle be watching Sunday night’s opener, it will also mean the end of his 866-game ironman streak, which started March 26, 2009. It’s the longest active streak in the NHL and fourth all-time. He’s 19 games from passing Steve Larmer for third place and 48 games from moving into second of Garry Unger. Doug Jarvis remains at the top with 964 consecutive games played.