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Does Keith Yandle make sense for the Flyers?

The veteran defenseman looks to be on his way out of Florida.

Los Angeles Kings v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

After four seasons with the Florida Panthers, it appears that Keith Yandle has fallen out of favor with the organization. After 866 consecutive games, Yandle’s ironman streak may come to an end on Sunday, when the Panthers open their season against the Chicago Blackhawks.

That is, unless he’s traded before then.

Along with the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers have come up as a potential landing spot for the 15-year veteran.

Yandle, 34, is in the fifth year of a seven-year contract that carries an average annual value of $6,350,000. He also has a no-movement clause, which he would need to waive in order to be traded, and also means that he would have to be protected in the Seattle expansion draft. Unless there was a guarantee that he would waive his NMC, its presence alone should nix any Yandle to Philadelphia trade scenario.

If they added Yandle, the Flyers would be forced into protecting four defensemen, as there is no way that they would allow Seattle to take Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, or Philippe Myers, meaning that they would be allowed to protect just four forwards. Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes have to be protected, while the other two spots would undoubtedly go to Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. This would leave Jakub Voracek, Oskar Lindblom, and Nolan Patrick available to be chosen. Far from an ideal situation.

But let’s say he does agree to waive his NMC ahead of the expansion draft and we can move past that hurdle. Would it really make sense to add Yandle to this team’s defensive corps? Yandle is a great power play quarterback, but with the Erik Gustafsson signing and the Flyers’ insistence on Ivan Provorov backing the first unit, even a trade involving Shayne Gostisbehere would leave Yandle on the outs where he shines the brightest. Though in theory, he could replace a forward on the second unit.

Acquiring Yandle also fails to fix the Flyers’ biggest need on defense — a partner for Provorov. While Yandle still averaged just under 20 minutes of ice time last season, the Panthers heavily sheltered his minutes. Per PuckIQ, Yandle spent just 21 percent of his total five-on-five ice time against elite competition, and 43 percent against bottom-sixers. Only Josh Brown was given easier minutes among Panthers defenders. Despite this, Yandle’s underlying numbers plummeted.

Keith Yandle On-Ice 5v5 Stats

Season Corsi-For Percentage Expected Goals-For Percentage Corsi Differential/60 RelTM Expected Goals Diff./60 RelTM
Season Corsi-For Percentage Expected Goals-For Percentage Corsi Differential/60 RelTM Expected Goals Diff./60 RelTM
19-20 47.78 45.72 -5.01 -0.23
18-19 49.33 47.40 -0.70 -0.06
17-18 48.28 47.24 -3.43 -0.16
16-17 50.29 47.63 -0.63 -0.05
via Evolving-Hockey

At this point in his career, Yandle no longer appears to be a top-four defender. There’s a reason why he’s behind Riley Stillman and Gustav Forsling on Florida’s depth chart. Though, as we saw with Matt Niskanen last season, sometimes a player that looks cooked can have an impressive rebound. The Flyers would be banking on something similar if they were to bring Yandle in to play important minutes, but as of now, Gustafsson already fills the role that Yandle had been playing in Florida.

What Yandle does bring are intangibles and pre-existing relationships, which seems to be the main reason why he’s been linked to the Flyers in the first place.

It makes sense for Yandle — the Flyers are good, he’s good friends with Hayes, and has played for Alain Vigneault already as a member of the New York Rangers. For the Flyers, he would help fill the veteran void left by Niskanen. He would join Justin Braun as the only other Flyers defensemen on the plus side of 30, and would be just their third defender over the age of 25. The question then becomes, is what he brings off the ice worth the cap hit, and the lack of stylistic fit within the lineup?

Even if the Panthers would retain half of Yandle’s salary, you’re looking at three years of Yandle at $3,175,000. Ask yourself if you would have been content with the Flyers giving Gustafsson three years instead of one this off-season. That’s essentially the player that they would be adding in Yandle, but six years older.

Rather than make a play for Yandle, it might make more sense to give Gostisbehere one final shot alongside Provorov, which seemed to be the plan until he was forced out due to the league’s Covid protocol. There should be no rush to make a trade right now unless an almost perfect fit becomes available. Yandle isn’t that.