Rangers Make Smart Gamble With Yandle

Steve Valiquette explains why the Rangers' trade for Keith Yandle makes sense for the team and why the defenseman is worth the high price.

The Rangers have decided to go all-in for the next two seasons after their deadline acquisition of Keith Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes.

Blueshirts fans have had mixed reactions on the deal due to the high cost, but the trade is easier to defend because of the limited window the team has and the aging core of the Rangers team that made the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

The Rangers’ core superstars — Marty St. Louis, Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist — are all at least 30 and the King is beginning to reach the age where goaltenders begin to decline. Most NHL goaltenders tend to fall off a cliff after their 35th birthday and taking a shot at glory while Lundquist is 33 is not a terrible gamble.

Enter a prime Yandle to the younger core and the Rangers are a better team than they were a week ago. Looking at Yandle’s HERO chart (Horizontal Evaluative Ranking Optics), it becomes clear what the Rangers have acquired.

Yandle ranks as a top-pairing defenseman in usage as well as offensive production.

Yandle is among the league’s elite offensively. He recently playing his 400th consecutive game and his durability and consistency has allowed him to lead all NHL defensemen in power-play assists with 102 and power-play points with 120 since the start of 2009-10 season. He also ranks sixth in the NHL in power-play assists over that same span.

Yandle’s offensive prowess helped drag a limited offensive team in Arizona to the sixth best power play in the NHL. He was able to dominate the power play in Arizona because he has great vision and operates at top speed. This allows him to effortlessly slide along the top end of the zone and manipulate passing lanes with precision passes. Yandle makes high-end plays with all of his special-teams points resulting in high-percentage green shots. Eight of these goals were the result of crossing the Royal Road.

As of today, Yandle was second among NHL defensemen in assists, third among NHL defensemen in points and leads NHL defensemen in PP assists and points.

Yandle isn’t as dominant a player as the elite defenders of the NHL, but his possession stats are solid enough that Rangers fans shouldn’t be that concerned with the #DammitYandle hashtag on Twitter. Turnovers and defensive mistakes tend to follow elite puck-handling defenders who also have the burden of starting the transition game from their defensive zone.

Although the Rangers’ power-play efficiency isn’t far of their 2013-14 regular-season mark, (18.9% vs 18.2%) you have to think the acquisition of Yandle was made with an eye to the power play that has struggled during the last two Ranger playoff runs with an 11.6% conversion rate. The playoffs are prone to extreme variance because of the small sample size, and ultimately those small samples will determine the perception of this deal in the eyes of fans. If the Rangers manage to win the Stanley Cup during the next two seasons, the fans will quickly forget the name Anthony Duclair.

It’s a solid gamble with this core and one Stanley Cup contenders cannot be afraid to make.