Orange and Black Investigations: Does Keith Yandle Make Sense?

According to TSN, former Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers standout Keith Yandle has reportedly “fallen out of favor” with the Panthers, who seem to be moving apart from the veteran defenseman under new GM Bill Zito. Yandle posted 45 points in 69 games with Florida in the 2019-2020 season and boasts the league’s longest ironman streak at 866 consecutive games started. Blues ringside reporter Andy Strickland cited Boston and Philadelphia as the two likeliest landing spots for Yandle, should he waive his no-move clause and accept a trade out of Florida. On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer; the Flyers need defenders. Yandle put up lots of points last year; therefore, he’s a great addition to the team. When you dig a little deeper, that’s not really the case. Let’s investigate why.

Yandle’s production remained in the elite territory last season. The defender was tied for 11th in the league in scoring at his position and ranked 10th among defenders in primary assists. That’s pretty much where the rosy picture of an elite player ends and where I’ll begin making my point. Keith Yandle isn’t going to help the Philadelphia Flyers win more games.

The Flaws

Yandle has many issues, but these are the main ones: he’s incredibly expensive, a redundant commodity, and he has little to no value when it comes to his play in his own end. Let’s break each of those down.

For the Flyers to acquire Yandle, they’d likely have to swallow at least part of his contract; that means they’d be paying the 34-year-old some of his $6.5 AAV salary for the next three years. For a team that’s already slammed up against the cap ceiling and looking to keep money free to extend young talent (Carter Hart comes to mind), this move already doesn’t make much sense.

Secondly, “old man Keith” has very similar strengths and weaknesses to two players already on the Flyers’ active roster: Shayne Gostisbehere and Erik Gustafsson. All three are at their best when on the powerplay, all three are primarily offensive players with glaring defensive weaknesses, and all three are prone to inconsistent play. The difference between Yandle and the other two? He’s older, worse at defense, more reliant on powerplay scoring, and significantly more expensive. Why would the Flyers want to add a third defender who fills the same niche role is simple? They wouldn’t.

Lastly, Yandle stinks in his own end. The Flyers will likely eventually look at adding an experienced, shutdown defender who can actually keep up with Ivan Provorov. Yandle is the complete opposite of that description. By Evolving Hockey’s xDef stat (which attempts to quantify a player’s defensive value), Yandle was the 4th worst defenseman in the league last year when it came to playing… y’know, defense.

A quick look at HockeyViz.com and a few other player value/impact metrics corroborated the results and only confirmed what I’ve noticed by the eye test; Yandle gets beat, and he gets beat regularly. As somebody who watched an embarrassing amount of Florida Panthers hockey last year, I can confirm this. I’d prefer not to add a player who will cause me to scream at the TV, thanks.

The Expansion Draft

In addition to all of the above, adding Yandle would complicate the already headache-inducing expansion draft. Bringing in the man they call “Sonk” would mean that the Flyers would have to expose one of Travis Sanheim or Phil Myers when Seattle walks to the podium next year. On a team that’s attempting to keep its core together while supplementing with youth, that’s not ideal. Sanheim is a very valuable, if maddening defenseman who still has room to grow; Myers is gigantic, skates like the wind, and has some serious snarl to his game. Both figure to be key cogs in helping the Flyers contend long-term. I’d be annoyed if adding a declining veteran got in the way of that.

Conclusion

I think Keith Yandle can still be a helpful contributor on a playoff team if he’s deployed in a sheltered role, but adding him makes no sense for Philly. You’ve seen the stats, I’ve watched him play, and he has no role available to maximize his serviceable talent. Hopefully, the Flyers don’t pick him up. The consequences could be disastrous.

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Icon Sportswire

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