A Keith Yandle Trade Isn’t About A Player, It’s About A Mindset

Last week, we broke down the news of the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers possibly being trade partners in a potential deal featuring Keith Yandle, and came to the conclusion that the trade wouldn’t be beneficial as an addition to the Flyers roster. But the scenario has bubbled in my brain all week. The trade can’t be about adding a player, but it has to be about fixing the mindset of the organization.

When the trade rumors circulated through Twitter late last week it was resoundingly rejected by the Flyers’ faithful. The reason for that is it goes against pretty much everything that has been put into their head over the past few years by a certain former Flyers general manager. The trade at face value isn’t perceived as a clear cut win, and Yandle being 34 years old certainly doesn’t help, but the deal wouldn’t be about fleecing the Panthers, it’d be about making a small step to salvaging some salary cap space.

The Florida Panthers revamped their defense corps over the summer and Yandle finds himself the odd man out as the season starts. The only thing that’s stopping the Cats from dealing the veteran defenseman is his huge contract that has three seasons left at a $6.35 million cap hit. In the flat-cap era the NHL has found itself in, dealing a contract of that magnitude is difficult.

The Flyers should know, they have their own regrettable contract or two. The only way to deal a bad contract is to take on a bad contract. We suggested last week that the deal could potentially be Keith Yandle for James Van Riemsdyk one-for-one, which may be appealing to the Panthers. Clearly they’re not interested in adding another defenseman, so that would rule out a deal based around Shayne Gostisbehere, but the Panthers could use some help at forward.

Sticking with that same deal from a Flyers perspective, it’s a little bit murky in the short-term, but it’s a deal that will help in the long-term. Adding Yandle, the player, would be yet another body on the carousel that is the Flyers blue line. But the deal wouldn’t necessarily be about Yandle the player, it’d be about maneuvering through the salary cap.

JVR is making $7 million a season for three more seasons, $650,000 less than Keith Yandle. If they’re lucky they may even get Florida to retain a bit of his contract, for argument’s sake, say they retain the $350K to bring his contract down to an even $6 mil. That’s a million dollars off the cap for the Flyers for three seasons.

That million dollars will go towards re-signing Carter Hart or Travis Sanheim this summer. Moving JVR to add a defenseman also clears a spot up front for prospect Morgan Frost. Adding Yandle also replaces something the Flyers lost during the offseason when Matt Niskanen retired- experience. Yandle brings 976 games of experience to the table over 15 seasons and a 866-game-and-counting ironman streak with three teams, including Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers for two years.

Obviously Keith Yandle is not the player he once was. This is 34-year-old Keith Yandle, not the 24-year-old that was in the Flyers rumor mill back in 2012. Though he’s still good for a handful of goals a year and 40-plus points, he would join a defense corps already flaunting Shayne Gostisbehere and newcomer Erik Gustafsson, who are essentially vying for the same role, so he’d have to fight for a roster spot.

A Keith Yandle trade isn’t about acquiring a player. It’s about making a small stride to help the future. Erik Gustafsson is only signed for this season, and with JVR out of the picture, the Flyers can focus their energy on getting Seattle to take Shayne Gostisbehere, Jake Voracek, or even Keith Yandle himself at the expansion draft. While this trade seems to go against everything the previous regime led the fanbase to believe, it’s a move that is pivotal this time to alleviate some cap space. With the salary cap staying flat over the next season or two, and some big time contracts on the horizon for the Flyers, every dollar is going to count.

A trade for Yandle is still unlikely, but the flyers should really be working the phones to see how desperate the Panthers are to deal the veteran defenseman. Florida only has a hair over $2 million in cap space right now after their taxi squad was announced, so it would be a tight deal between them and Philly, but if they can find a dance partner who wants to take Van Riemsdyk off their hands, Fletcher should really consider his options now, rather than hope Seattle wants to work out a deal in the summer.

The Flyers are getting their looks in at Morgan Frost for the next few weeks while Sean Couturier is on the shelf, so maybe if he blows the doors off and earns a roster spot full-time, JVR will be the odd man out and a deal will be even easier for Fletcher to consider. In the meantime, even if Yandle doesn’t end up in Philly, another trade with the same principles may come to fruition over the next few months or even during the offseason. It can’t be about moral victories anymore, it has to be about actual victories, either on the ice, or in the bank. Chuck Fletcher has quite a mine field to clear when it comes to the salary cap over the next few seasons. Hopefully he is up to the task and is ready to make the hard decisions, like whether or not Keith Yandle should be in their crosshairs.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: sun-sentinel.com

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