The Coyotes stocked up for the future, while the Rangers bet on winning now. So who got the better end of the Keith Yandle trade? Scott Burnside and Craig Custance debate:
Burnside: Well, Craig (who as I type this is actually sitting about three feet to my right. In fact, I may just give him a swat for good measure. But I digress.) Arizona general manager Don Maloney has been a busy boy the past 24 hours, trading Antoine Vermette to the Chicago Blackhawks then dealing skilled puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers for top prospect Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore, a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2015. The Yotes also sent a fourth-round pick in 2015 and 27-year-old minor pro defenseman Chris Summers to the Rangers.
Yandle’s name has been in the trade winds for several seasons, and with Oliver Ekman-Larsson emerging as one of the top young defensemen in the game (leading all defensemen with 17 goals), Yandle was seen as redundant. His deal runs through 2015-16, and he fills a need for the Rangers that they thought they had filled when they signed Dan Boyle to a two-year deal over the summer. Assuming Henrik Lundqvist returns to full health before the playoffs, this has to give the Rangers another piece to add to what they hope will be a Stanley Cup tool chest. But the Rangers paid a stiff price, and you have to wonder how the Yotes are positioning themselves for what could be a rapid transformation from bottom-feeder to relevancy. Or do you think I’m putting too much stock in Duclair’s chemistry with Arizona prospect Max Domi at the World Junior Championship, plus a first- and a second-round pick?
Custance: I know the Coyotes weren't necessarily actively shopping Yandle. They like him and see him as a guy you keep around when you're rebuilding because he's a talent that's hard to find. But when you're rebuilding and a team offers a package as rich as the one the Rangers sent to Arizona, you have to do it. After trading Vermette and Yandle, the Coyotes have two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts. One of them may result in Connor McDavid. I can tell you, when I spoke with Arizona coach Dave Tippett on Saturday, he was absolutely miserable. He hates losing. This process hasn't been easy for anyone in Arizona. Shane Doan used the word frustrating countless times in another interview. But the payoff is potentially huge. Arizona already has a franchise defenseman in Ekman-Larsson to go with young forwards Domi and Duclair. If they land McDavid or Jack Eichel, this would be a swift rebuild for the Coyotes. Credit the ownership in Arizona for retaining salary to pull this trade off. That wouldn't have happened a few years ago. So where does this trade leave the Rangers?
Burnside: Craig, that’s why I find this deal so fascinating. As you noted, I think the Yotes have the potential to be on the right track to relevancy in a hurry if they get at all lucky in the draft lottery in early April. But that’s still down the road. Yandle to the Rangers is all about the here and now. It was hard not to like the Rangers’ chances of emerging from a wide-open Eastern Conference before the Yandle addition. Yes, there’s some riverboat gambler aspect to Yandle’s game. It was that high-risk/reward element that cost him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi a year ago. But given the solid blue-line depth in place in New York already with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, I think Yandle will be able to play his game without too much fear. What say you, my friend, does this vault the Rangers to the top of the list in terms of teams you like to come out of the East?
Custance: I certainly like their chances much more now than I did this morning. The East is absolutely wide open, so adding an impact defenseman like Yandle gives the Rangers a chance to separate themselves from the pack a little bit. Executives and scouts are definitely mixed on Yandle. Some believe he has too much risk in his game even if it provides offense. Like you mentioned, he was at the center of debate among USA Hockey's architects when building the Olympic team. And as you know, Kings GM Dean Lombardi went to bat for Yandle in a big way. Lombardi, as it turns out, knows how to build winning teams, and one thing he shares with Rangers GM Glen Sather is a tolerance for risk. There's going to be a day when the Rangers wake up and their prospect pool will be thin and the lack of all these first-round picks will hurt them, but it will hurt less if they're wearing a Stanley Cup ring when that happens. So do they win one before Yandle's contract expires after next season?
Burnside: Hmmm. Tough call. I like this move for the Rangers in a big way, although I do wonder where that leaves Boyle, who has another season left on his deal that will pay him $4.5 million next season. Hard to imagine there’s room on that Rangers roster for both Yandle and Boyle. So before we close, let me ask you a question: Has Maloney exceeded your expectations as far as recouping assets for Vermette and Yandle (and let’s assume he’s not done yet, with Zbynek Michalek still left to move and possibly a guy like Martin Erat)?
Custance: Absolutely. A few weeks ago, I would have pegged Vermette's return as a second-round pick and a prospect. Maloney maxed value there. And I was wondering if they would ever trade Yandle. They did and got a huge return. In the process, they have improved their chances of getting McDavid, because the Coyotes are going to be awful the remainder of the season. It'll be painful now, but the payoff is looking great.