Nearly a year after signing his big five-year deal worth $26 million with Phoenix, the Coyotes appear to be looking to deal their star defenseman Keith Yandle.
After a career year in 2010 where the 25-year-old had 59 points while playing in all 82 games, Yandle's numbers dropped this past season. He had only 43 points in the same number of games without a single power play goal after having eight the previous two seasons.
Along with his declining offense numbers, Yandle struggled on the defensive end at stretches during the year. He had several costly turnovers in the Coyotes zone and after having a +28 rating the previous two seasons, he was only +5 this year.
Before the NHL Draft took place on Friday evening, rumors were swirling that Yandle was part of a deal that would have brought over 24-year-old center Jordan Stall from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The rumors soon died down and Staal has since been dealt to the Hurricanes to join his brother Eric in Carolina.
Over the weekend, another rumor was going around that Yandle was being shopped for another young center, this time Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers. The 22-year-old former first-round pick had 47 points in his fifth season last year with Edmonton.
Whether these rumors are true or not, it seems likely that the Coyotes are going to deal Yandle to add some offensive skill before this offseason is over. The talent on the blue line is Phoenix's biggest strength, even more so after the acquisition of former Coyote Zbynek Michalek over the weekend.
Even if General manager Don Maloney decides to deal Yandle at some point, there is still plenty of quality of depth on the back end for the Yotes. Michalek will line up alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson to form one of the best defensive duos in the league. Derek Morris, Rusty Klesla, David Schlemko and a slew of youngsters will round out an impressive group of defenders.
If Yandle is indeed dealt, it will more than likely be for some much needed offensive punch as evidenced by the Stall and Gagner rumored deals. At times during the regular season and the postseason, it was a struggle for Phoenix to get the puck in the net past opposing goaltenders.
Lots of important offensive talent are free agents heading into this offseason. The biggest of course is Shane Doan, who remains this organization's top priority at the moment. Ray Whitney is another, but it is hard to see him coming back with wanting a multi-year deal. Taylor Pyatt and Daymond Langkow, who both had big postseasons, are free agents as well.
As long as Dave Tippett is the head coach and Maloney is the general manager of this organization, the Coyotes are always going to be a defense-oriented team. That doesn't mean they still can't add offensive skill at the forward positions while maintaining that philosophy.
That is why trading Yandle for a stud skill player makes a lot of sense at this time. The blue line remains this team's biggest strength by far and away so trading away its most valuable member would net Phoenix at least one talented offensive player. That is surely needed if the Desert Dogs want to make another deep postseason run.
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