Another veteran defenseman is set to be available this offseason.
The Florida Panthers announced on Thursday that they have bought out the remaining two years of Keith Yandle‘s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Yandle had two years remaining on his contract that carried a salary cap hit of $6.35 million. He joined the Panthers as a free agent prior to the 2016-17 season, signing a seven-year, $44.5 million contract.
“We would like to extend a sincere thank you to Keith for all that he’s contributed to the Florida Panthers organization and to the South Florida community over the past five seasons,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said in a statement releasaed by the team. “While a decision of this kind is never an easy one to make, we believe that this shift is necessary as we look towards the 2021-22 season and our club’s future.”
The buyout will impact the Panthers’ salary cap for the next four seasons.
Here are the year-by-year implications of that.
2021-22: $2.34 million salary cap hit ($4 million salary cap savings)
2022-23: $5.3 million salary cap hit ($1.05 million salary cap savings)
2023-24: $1.24 million salary cap hit (-$1.24 million savings)
2024-25: $1.24 million salary cap hit (-$1.24 million savings)
Yandle is still a talented player offensively that can be extremely productive when put into a role where he can focus on the power play and driving offense.
He scored three goals to go with 24 assists in 56 games with the Panthers this past season.
He is also currently the NHL’s ironman, owning the longest active consecutive games streak in the league having appeared in 922 consecutive regular season games. That is the second longest streak in NHL history, trailing only the 964 game streak that Doug Jarvis had. Barring injury, and assuming he joins a team that will play him every game, he would break that record this season.
Even though Yandle is not a player that is going to be the focal point of a defense he should still draw plenty of interest on the open market given his ability to drive offense. The free agent market has suddenly become a little more crowded on the blue line this week as Yandle joins Ryan Suter (recently bought out by Minnesota) as newly available players.
Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton remains the top free agent defender available.
Along with the Yandle buy out, the Panthers have also re-signed Gustav Forsling and Anthony Duclair to new contracts. Forsling was signed to a three-year, $7.98 million contract extension. That comes out to a salary cap hit of $2.66 million per season.
Duclair, meanwhile, also signed a three-year deal that will pay him a total of $9 million. That is a salary cap hit of $3 million per season.
Duclair signed a cheap one-year deal with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent a year ago after he was not giving a qualifying offer by the Ottawa Senators. He scored 10 goals and 22 assists (32 total points) in 43 games. He has proven to be a player you can count on for around 20 goals over an 82-game season and has been a great value for the Panthers. The Panthers are already his sixth team in his seven-year NHL career, but this new contract extension seems to indicate he has finally found a spot and a team he fits with.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.