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Why Keith Yandle opted for Panthers over unrestricted free agency

Keith Yandle had planned to go to July 1 and see where he stacked up in the unrestricted free agent market. It was going to be tough for the salary cap strapped New York Rangers to re-sign him and Yandle was curious to find out which teams wanted his services.

Then at the beginning of this week the Florida Panthers swooped in and acquired his negotiating rights and Yandle’s outlook changed.

On Friday the team announced it had signed Yandle four seven years at $44.5 million. This came to a salary cap hit of around $6.35 million per-year. The hope is Yandle adds a puck-moving element to the team’s blueline and helps its power play.

 “When they traded for my rights here and I learned how committed they are to winning and how committed they are to getting better and you learn more about their group. Playing against them you know how good they are,” Yandle said on a Friday conference call with reporters. “I put myself in a good situation where you can win and have fun doing it. Seems like a great group of guys here and it’s going to be a lot of fun.” 

In March of 2015, the New York Rangers acquired Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes with Chris Summers for a package that included young forward Anthony Duclair, a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2015 second-round pick.

The 29-year-old Yandle had 47 points in 82 games last season. According to Naturalstattrick, Yandle posted a 51.02 score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF%. He also held a plus-4.84 score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% relative to the rest of his team.

The Panthers acquired therights to Yandle for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Rangers will now receive a 2017 fourth-round pick because Yandle signed his deal. 

Yandle finished tied for the Rangers’ lead with 22 power play points. Aleksander Barkov was the Panthers’ leading power play points producer with 16. Florida’s power play ranked 23rd in the NHL at 16.9 percent.

Both Yandle and Florida believe he can be a real boost to this part of their game.

“It’s a big part of the game now. Special teams you can win or lose games,” Yandle said. “I take pride in helping out on the power play.”

Yandle said he was also enticed by the prospect of playing with young defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The two could be a natural pair since Yandle plays the left side and the 20-year-old Ekblad plays the right side. 

“That was a huge thing with talking with the brass here. The opportunity to play with a guy like Ekblad. I see him winning multiple, multiple Norris Trophies,” Yandle said. “To have the opportunity to play with a young talent like that is one of those thing you don’t get to do too many times in your career. Getting to play with him definitely helped my decision to come to the Panthers.”

Signing Yandle gives the Panthers 40 contracts for next season at $57,441,665 according to General Fanager.

Florida will now likely turn their attention to pending restricted free agent Vincent Trocheck, who is likely due a raise off his entry-level contract. Trocheck scored 25 goals last season. Florida would also like to give Ekblad a long-term contract extension before his entry-level contract ends after this upcoming season. They can sign Ekblad after July 1.   

The team has said it wants to re-sign veteran defenseman Brian Campbell, but he Chicago Tribune reported Campbell has interest in signing with the Chicago Blackhawks

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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