As I’m sure you’ve seen, the Rangers made a big splash yesterday, acquiring Keith Yandle from the Coyotes and locking Mats Zuccarello up to a four year contract.
Yandle didn’t come cheap: he–along with defenseman Chris Summers and a 2016 4th round pick–cost the Rangers John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a 2016 1st round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick. The Coyotes will be eating half of Yandle’s salary, so for this season and next, Yandle comes at a cap cost of $2.625 million.
Getting Yandle at such a cap hit did cost the Rangers one of their two best prospects in Anthony Duclair. I was never of the opinion that Duclair was an NHL star in the making, but he is a very good forward prospect controllable for at least the next seven seasons. He does play a potentially very crowded position for the Rangers, however. With Mats Zuccarello signed long-term, the Rangers have Zuccarello, Rick Nash, and Chris Kreider signed through next season, Carl Hagelin as a RFA, and J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Pavel Buchnevich looking to cement spots on the the wing as well. And then there’s Marty St. Louis, who has made it clear he only wants to play with the Rangers, but may be relegated to a bonus-laden contract to stick around.
Yandle is a good even-strength defenseman, he sees a lot of shots against with him on the ice, but not as many as he sees shots for. He’s a great powerplay defenseman, however. In the past five seasons, Yandle has produced 4.5 powerplay points per 60 minutes of ice time. Dan Boyle is on the declining end of 4.1 points/60 over the same stretch, and Ryan McDonagh is at 3.1. Yandle has posted 50 or more points in two of the last five seasons, and has posted an 82-game point pace of less than 50 points in only 2011-12 in that span (43 points). The Rangers haven’t had a defenseman reach 45 points since Tom Poti in 2002-03.
On defense, something has got to give. The Rangers have cap commitments of $24.2 million to six blueliners next season, none less than Yandle’s $2.625M commitment. Of the six, only Boyle and Yandle’s contracts don’t last until at least 2017-18. Presumably the Rangers will want to sign Yandle beyond 2015-16, so there’s potentially a lot of dollars for the blueline. The Rangers may be forced into selling high on Kevin Klein, something I’d fully support.
I think the Yandle trade would have made a lot more sense had the Rangers not signed Marc Staal, but rather traded him to offset some of the assets lost in the trade. With Staal, Yandle and Ryan McDonagh as the left defenseman, the left side is a lot stronger than the right, so we’ll likely see one of them take the occasional shift on the right side, similar to how Michael Del Zotto was used by Tortorella in 2011-12, in order to get their minutes.
The Rangers did what I wasn’t expecting when they signed Mats Zuccarello to a $18 million / 4 year deal [$4.5M per]. It’s great value for one of the more underrated wingers in the league.
The Rangers also acquired James Sheppard from the Sharks for a 2016 4th round pick. Sheppard is a 48.4% faceoff man over the past three seasons, but according to great Sharks blogger Fear the Fin he’s much better as a winger than a center. If it were up to me, he wouldn’t bump J.T. Miller from his spot on the third line now, but I’d imagine he’ll get a look on the third line out of the gate. The Sharks also retained some of Sheppard’s salary.
Lee Stempniak was also moved in a seemingly senseless trade for 24 year old AHL Carl Klingberg, who cleared waivers earlier this season. In Klingberg (like Chris Summers), the Rangers get some organizational depth which is there if needed, but doesn’t count against the cap until you do. The fact that that was all Lee Stempniak could get is frustrating. Stempniak is a bland player, but the important thing is, he’s an effective player.
There’s still a day worth of trading left, and there’s still opportunity to improve the Rangers. I’d love to see them pick up some more forward depth and some semblance of insurance in goal.