3 Guys the Coyotes Could Get for Keith Yandle
The NHL lockout has been absolutely horrific for all hockey fans. We miss the hard-hitting action that leaves a void in many of our lives. What it has given us the time to do is look at options for our home team and how we could potentially improve our roster.
When I look at the Phoenix Coyotes, I see a team that has managed to hold it together during some dire times. The ownership situation is still not settled, the front office has been put on standby during the ownership transition and many Coyotes have left to go overseas to ply their trade.
One name continues to come up during any discussions involving a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, and that is the name of defenseman Keith Yandle. Yandle was mentioned numerous times throughout all of last season as the most marketable asset they possessed when it came to moving their players for the benefit of the team.
Let me go on record saying that I don't feel that moving the two-time All Star is a good idea. The 6'1", 196 lbs. defenseman is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. Over the past four seasons with the Coyotes, the 26 year-old Boston native posted an average of 9.5 goals with 33.75 assists for 43.25 points. He is excellent on the power play and is magnificent in transition. If you add his expanding leadership role with the team, you have someone who is not only extremely marketable, but is very important for the Coyotes to hold onto.
So, what would make the Coyotes think about trading him? In my opinion, there are two reasons: salary and offensive need.
Yandle recently inked a new deal with the franchise that will keep him a Coyote through the 2015-2016 season, paying him an average of $5.25 million a year. With the ownership situation in flux, either way it turns out is probably not going to be very fruitful for the franchise. If the NHL retains ownership, they will look to maintain the roster as it is and would be willing to cut costs to make the team more affordable to a new buyer (say Seattle or Quebec). If former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison completes his acquisition of the team, I feel that he will not inject a massive amount of capital into the team due to his inability to finish the acquisition due to lack of investor capital.
Either way, I feel cost-cutting will ensue and Yandle could be the first major piece out of the door.
The Coyotes need offense. They finished last season ranked in the bottom half of the league in goal scoring (18th), and their power play has been dismal for years. Last season, their power play finished 29th, second-to-last in the NHL.
While Yandle helps move the puck on the blue line during the power play, the Coyotes have very few options for him to move it to. Ray Whitney is gone, and others up front have not shown they can do the job with enough consistency other than Shane Doan and more recently, Radim Vrbata. Those two names don't scare anybody, though.
So, without further ado, here are three guys who I think make sense in a deal for Keith Yandle. The analysis here is based on salary, fit with the Yotes and skill level.
No. 1: Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan was on the trade block last season once Anaheim figured that it was out of the playoff race. The top four forwards all had decent seasons for the Ducks, but Ryan was the one that appeared on everyone's trade radar near the deadline. He did not move, though, and Anaheim retained his services for the upcoming season.
He would be a great fit for the Coyotes. He is coming off of his fourth straight 30-goal season, but by many accounts, he had a down year last year. Ryan scored 31 goals to go with 27 assists for 58 points, but many in the Anaheim organization feel he is capable of so much more. The Coyotes need a top-line forward who can put pucks in the back of the net. This is the guy that they need.
His salary is similar to Yandle's. He makes $5.1 million a year through the 2014-2015 season, so he is locked up for a couple more years at a reasonable rate. The Coyotes would actually save money in a straight-up deal for Ryan, as Yandle makes $5.25 million a season through 2015-2016.
He is a 25-year-old American Olympian, an offensive star while being defensively conscious. He has put together plus seasons in plus-minus rating over the last four seasons.
This could almost be a direct swap that would work for Anaheim as well. The Ducks have a decent defense already, but would be stellar if they added Yandle. The Coyotes would probably have to sweeten the deal a little with a draft pick or minor league prospect, but this deal could probably be done.
One potential roadblock is that they are in the same division and the two teams do not get along all that well due to their division rivalry. If the Ducks still want to trade Ryan, I am sure the Coyotes would listen.
No. 2: Kyle Okposo/Matt Moulson
The New York Islanders are in need of strengthening their defense. Both of these players would be nice additions to the Coyotes because both are offensively-gifted forwards.
Okposo is the younger of the two (24) and has shown a lot of promise in his young NHL career. He played in 79 games last season with the Islanders, registering 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points. He plays a physical game for his size, and in my opinion, will only get better as he ages.
He is very affordable as well. He currently makes $2.8 million and is locked up through the 2015-16 season.The only knock on Okposo is his defensive play. He was a minus-15 last season, and that is something that Dave Tippett is not very patient with.
Moulson is the veteran of the two (29) and is the more polished all-around player at this time. He is just coming into his own after increasing his scoring totals over the last three seasons. Last season, he scored 36 goals to go with his 33 assists for 69 points (a career high). Many will chalk this up to playing with an offensive stud like John Tavares, but I believe Moulson could produce in the Coyotes' offensive system as well.
Like Okposo, he is affordable. Moulson will make $3.133 million through the 2013-14 season. He was also a plus-one last season playing for a struggling team, which would make the Coyotes brass smile.
If the Islanders could swing this deal. Yandle and Mark Streit would make a very nice pairing at the top of the Islanders' defensive depth chart. The Islanders need defensive help badly, and Yandle could supply that. With the Islanders moving into a new building, I could see them generating more capital and could potentially want to swing a deal if they are in contention.
For the Coyotes, defensive depth is their strong suit, and if either one of these guys is out there as the centerpiece in a Yandle deal, they have to take a look at it.
No. 3: Valtteri Filppula
The Detroit Red Wings were the hottest suitor for Keith Yandle last season. They were consistently linked with the two-time All-Star as they were waiting for the Coyotes to drop from contention so that they could swing a deal to help their blue-line contingent.
With Nicklas Lidstrom retiring, some in Detroit saw Yandle as the perfect replacement for Lidstrom, as they play a similar game. Now don't get me wrong, Yandle has to make a ton of improvement in his defensive positioning and overall game to be compared with the perennial All-Star Lidstrom, but those in Detroit's front office felt that he was worth bringing in to help solidify the defense and replace him long-term.
Filppula would be the best person on the Red Wings roster to trade for. The Coyotes will not be able to pry one of the top forwards out of Detroit (Datsyuk, Zetterberg), and they don't want an aging veteran (Franzen, Bertuzzi). My pick would be Filppula for a number of reasons.
First, he is coming off a career offensive season which saw him explode out of his shell once given more ice time. He scored 23 goals and collected 43 assists for 66 points, as he averaged more ice time than in previous seasons. He finished the season a plus-18, which shows he is very defensively conscious while being able to produce good offensive numbers.
The 28-year-old left wing is making $3 million a year, but is a free agent at the end of the season. The only way I would pull the trigger on this deal if I were the Coyotes would be to get an agreement to sign him to an extension (I would go up to $4-4.5 million on a three-year deal). I would also ask the Wings for a draft pick or an exchange of draft picks to sweeten the deal.
The Wings would get their guy, and the Coyotes would get some offensive help they truly need.