In what has already been a busy day on the trade market, the Florida Panthers are getting in on the fun.
Looking to build their blueline, the Panthers have sent a sixth-round draft pick and conditional fourth-round selection to the New York Rangers for the negotiating rights to veteran blueliner Keith Yandle, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. The conditional selection will only be included in the deal if Yandle, 29, signs with the Panthers, and Florida will have little less than two weeks to make that happen before free agency opens on July 1.
Locking up Yandle would be a big get for the Panthers, who would end up the winners of the sweepstakes for arguably the top free agent rearguard. Yandle scored five goals and 47 points in his first and only full season as a member of the Rangers. Though he played a second-pairing role with the Blueshirts, Yandle would almost certainly become a top-pairing defenseman in Florida, especially if free agent-to-be Brian Campbell doesn’t end up returning to the Cats.
It’s not that the Panthers won’t have the cap space to keep both Campbell and Yandle, but whether or not they see themselves getting that close to the cap. This past season, Florida began the campaign with more than $5 million in cap space. Signing both Campbell and Yandle could cost the Panthers upwards of $10 million, which would leave Florida with potentially less than $10 million to add pieces, lock up key RFA Vincent Trocheck and sign a backup goaltender.
However, in an interesting wrinkle, the Miami Herald’s George Richards reported the plan may be to sign Yandle and Campbell but move out 25-year-old defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. If that happens, it would free up $4.33 million and Kulikov would likely be due a raise as an unrestricted free agent ahead of the 2017-18 season.
But regardless of what happens, the deal for Yandle is a low-risk, possibly high-reward move. Much like the Arizona Coyotes did with the Stars and UFA-to-be defenseman Alex Goligoski, the trade ships out what would essentially be a pick that is unlikely to come to fruition in a sixth-rounder for the mere chance to sign Yandle. And if Yandle does sign, a fourth-round pick is a steal for his services considering the Rangers gave up Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a first-round and second-round pick for Yandle at the 2015 trade deadline.
It doesn’t really matter which sixth-round selection the Panthers gave up, either. They owned the 174th and 175th picks in the upcoming draft, so the difference there is negligible. Only 29 of 437 players drafted with the 174th selection or later in the past decade have played more than 100 games in the NHL. The likelihood of either sixth-round pick being a miss for the Panthers is far greater than the chances it will be a hit.