Yandle signs with Panthers for 7 years, $44.45 million

Keith Yandle celebrates his goal that made it 3-1 late in the second with Rick Nash and Kevin Klein. AP Photo by Chris O'Meara/Getty Images

Keith Yandle celebrates his goal that made it 3-1 late in the second with Rick Nash and Kevin Klein.
AP Photo by Chris O’Meara/Getty Images

In the what the heck are they thinking department, the Florida Panthers have signed Keith Yandle to a seven-year contract worth a reported $44.45 million. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun just broke the story and probably Twitter. Here is the tweet:

As much as I love Yandle, that’s a crazy contract. Seven years is a quite a commitment for above average offensive defenseman who can put up 50 points. I think most Ranger fans enjoyed what the 29-year old smooth skating pass first blue liner brought to the table. It’s just a shame that he only lasted a year and a half before management realized they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him.

At the very least, they did get back a sixth round pick in this weekend’s Draft and a fourth next year thanks to Yandle deciding to sign with Florida. It’s unfortunate how former general manager Glen Sather’s massive overpayment worked out. He parted with Anthony Duclair, a second round pick and a first round pick to rent Yandle for a two-year period. The first of which saw him help the Rangers advance to within a period of a consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

There wasn’t a repeat with injuries and the decline of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal hurting the team. Plus the lack of effort from quite a few forwards who escaped heavy criticism doomed the ’15-16 roster. They were easily ousted by eventual Cup champ Pittsburgh in five games during the first round.

As much as I would’ve loved to seen Yandle stay, it clearly wasn’t gonna happen. The Rangers at least have one potential left-skating defenseman in Brady Skjei, who should be a fixture on the back end. At the moment, it also means there should be room for Dylan McIlrath. However, nobody knows what GM Jeff Gorton’s plans are. With the continued rumors of Rick Nash and Derek Stepan on the block by renowned TSN reporters Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, I have no clue what the roster will look like.

Gorton must decide on Chris Kreider, who’s in line for a raise similar to what Brandon Saad received. At this point, Saad’s better proving his worth in Year 1 with the Blue Jackets. Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller should be cheaper to re-sign.

So, now it’s official. Yandle has gone fishing in Florida. He definitely should help a Panthers team that made the postseason. He’ll likely replace vet Brian Campbell, who is interested in returning to Chicago. Yandle’s great skating and puck possession style should be a good fit with Aleksander Barkov, Jaromir Jagr, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad. Yandle immediately upgrades the Cats’ blue line which also features stud Aaron Ekblad.

For the Rangers, they won’t be able to replace Yandle’s production. His 47 points including a team best 42 helpers were the most by a Ranger defenseman since Brian Leetch (10-45-55) in ’01-02. That was without proper usage with Alain Vigneault preferring to play Yandle on the third pair and at times the second power play unit.

Now, he’ll go to a young rising team that should only get better. Yandle leaves behind a team with a cap mess and uncertainty surrounding its future. Best of luck to him.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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