With Keith Yandle, Rangers Can Handle Anyone


Brad Loper

Keith Yandle’s punk handling and goal scoring abilities will provide the Rangers an offensive boost as they head into the postseason. (Photo courtesy of Brad Loper/Dallas Morning News via TNS)


For the New York Rangers, the trade deadline didn’t just present an opportunity to spend for the case of spending. They weren’t going to deal assets, including prospects and draft picks, for middle of the road players like Jaromir Jagr or David Clarkson who weren’t going to put them over the top. That’s why they made the biggest splash in the league by going all-out and trading for defenseman Keith Yandle.

They paid a premium, sure, but Yandle is an elite-caliber player and is the best player that was dealt in the days before the deadline. The Rangers sent defenseman John Moore and forward prospect Anthony Duclair, along with 2015 second-round and 2016 first-round draft picks to the Arizona Coyotes for Yandle, Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth-round pick.

Conservatives will argue that giving up the first-round pick was ludicrous, since that will be the fourth consecutive draft where the Rangers will not own a first-rounder. And they may have a point. But when you lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Los Angeles Kings the year before and think you’re one player away, you have to jump at the chance to land a player of Yandle’s stature.

Yandle has been one of the league’s premier offensive-defensemen for years and has somehow flown under the radar. He’s one of only two NHL defensemen who have tallied 30 or more points in each season since 2008-09, and one of two NHL defensemen who have totaled at least 40 points in five of the last six seasons as well. It isn’t like he is suddenly playing good hockey – the two-time All-Star has been consistently productive throughout his eight-year career.

The acquisition doesn’t just strengthen the Rangers’ defense, as the Blueshirts now have the luxury of playing Marc Staal on the third pairing with Dan Boyle, but it also greatly enhances their 10th-ranked power play (18.9 percent).

Yandle is tied for the NHL lead in power play assists (24) and is tied for third in the NHL in power play points (26) this season. He also leads all NHL defensemen in power play assists (102) and power play points (120) since the start of the 2009-10 season.

The sudden trade was clearly one that President and GM Glen Sather made with one goal in mind: winning the Stanley Cup. It remains to be seen if this move will accomplish that mission but the Rangers are definitely a better team from top to bottom than they were last year.

As scary as the loaded Eastern Conference is, with the likes of the Islanders, Penguins, Lightning and Canadians, The Rangers will be as dangerous as the regular season winds down. The Rangers’ speed and quickness posts incredible obstacles for opposing defenses, they have playmaking forwards like Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, and have an excellent penalty kill. Expect the Rangers to make noise in the postseason.