Florida Panthers: expectations from Keith Yandle entering his second season

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 8: Keith Yandle. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 8: Keith Yandle. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Following an abysmal defensive year for the Florida Panthers , talented D-man Keith Yandle is looking to upstart the blue line to imminent success.

In the summer of 2016, the Florida Panthers were in desperate need for a quality defensemen that could provide some offense especially with the notable departure of one of FLA’s best offensively skilled D-men in Brian Campbell . The Panthers solution was to acquire highly coveted Keith Yandle from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 4th round pick. Shortly after the deal, the Panthers locked up Keith to an extremely expensive contract totaling 44.5 million over the span of 7 years. The 30-year-old Yandle would carry a whopping annual salary of 6.35 million until reaching the age of 37.

The Cats’ desperation for a play-making defenseman essentially caused them to distribute this enormous mega deal to Keith Yandle. High expectations were placed on the shoulders of Yandle following his incredibly humongous contract and he largely underwhelmed in the 2017 season. Yandle participated in all 82 games for the Florida Panthers and experienced a drastic decline in the amount of assists, combined points, plus/minus, power play points, shot percentage, and hits.

His production was largely unimpressive for a defenseman making the highest amount of money on the team. In consequence, the Florida Panthers underwent a disastrous season as a whole, most notably the power play which was supposed to improve with the addition of Yandle but instead became progressively worse as the season transpired.

On of the main reasons the Panthers desired an offensive defenseman of Yandle’s caliber was to significantly improve a struggling power play unit which ultimately starts with the defenseman quarterbacking the man advantage. However, Keith contributions were unfortunately minimal as the Panthers had the 7th worst power play in the entire league.

Keith’s power play points decreased from 22 to 18 since joining the Cats as Florida experienced a difficult time capitalizing off opposing team’s penalties. Keith’s shot percentage decreased from 3.1% to 2.8% over the span of 1 year.

Keith wasn’t as positively impactful on defense as the Cats hoped. His total amount of hits drastically decreased from 43 in 2016 to 28 in 2017. Yandle’s ATOI was 22:02 and he greatly underperformed when the Panthers depended on him in crucial situations.

Yandle proved to be unreliable as the Panthers were hesitant to utilise him in critical moments especially on the penalty kill and defending opposing superstar forwards. However, an encouraging sign for the Panthers was an increase in the amount of blocked shots Yandle had going from 66 in 2016 to 78 in 2017.

Yandle did produce offensively as he contributed 5 goals and 36 assists for a total of 41 points (led all Panthers defenseman in assists and points). Although Keith didn’t experience a promising season on the defensive side, he played a prominent role in assisting our forwards to countless scoring chances.

His laser vision and smooth skating ability are essential parts of Yandle’s game and if he can develop into playing both ends effectively, then Florida will certainly have a quality chance of clinching a playoff berth in the upcoming season.

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The Cats will need a revitalized Yandle in hopes of experiencing a resurgent year under an excited, tough-minded head coach in Bob Boughner leading the charge. Yandle will hope to minimize his staggeringly high turnover rate and produce more on both ends of the ice entering his 2nd year with the Cats. Perhaps he will experience a smoother transition due to playing with the Panthers a year ago. Boughner will hopefully resolve some of Yandle’s defensive issues in order to turn him into a more complete two-way defenseman.

Yandle will surely see his numbers spark upwards with a new coaching staff, faster forwards involved offensively, and more comfort playing alongside experienced, talented defenders on the team such as Jason Demers or superstar Aaron Ekblad. Keith Yandle will hopefully play a more vital role in propelling the Panthers to inevitable success.