Inside Numbers: Sather makes a splash with Yandle and Sheppard Moves

Keith Yandle (nhl)

Keith Yandle is headed to Broadway in blockbuster (coyotes.nhl.com)

Keith Yandle is headed to Broadway in blockbuster (coyotes.nhl.com)

It’s once again Trade Deadline time in the NHL, and that means New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather has been busy.

Sather, who’s been notable throughout the league for his yearly moves at the deadline, did his part in shoring up the Blueshirts for another deep post-season run on Sunday, adding defenseman Keith Yandle from Arizona, and winger James Sheppard from San Jose.

In Yandle, the Rangers add an elite defenseman and champion on the power play, a move that cost New York a hefty preimum.  The Rangers sent highly touted forward prospect Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore, and 1st and 2nd round picks in 2016 and 2015 respectively to Arizona in exchange for Yandle and low-level defenseman Chris Summers.  Arizona will retain half of Yandle’s $5.25 million AAV salary, leaving the Rangers with a $2.625 million cap hit.

There’s no question that the Rangers are firmly in “win now” mode.  Their Stanley Cup window is open for this year and the next, and as a result, they’ve pushed all of their chips to the center of the table.  In trading Duclair, who was a third round pick in 2013 for the Rangers and a sure fire 20-25 goal scoring power forward, they’ve certainly mortgaged their future for the present.

A 28 year-old left-handed shot, Yandle is most certainly an offensive defenseman in every sense.  And while his defensive numbers aren’t staggering by any means, his addition addresses two glaring needs for the Rangers: an answer for the rotating door on defense between Matt Hunwick and John Moore, and a quarterback on the powerplay, as evidenced below.  For reference, Yandle is represented by the circular blue dot.

 

(Credit to Sportscharts.com)

(Credit to Sportingcharts.com)

Yandle, who played a huge role on an Arizona powerplay unit that ranks 5th in the NHL (21.6%), will be a welcome addition to the 11th ranked Rangers powerplay (18.8%) that has historically struggled.  The Rangers managed a dreadful 12.6% powerplay last year, a number that contributed greatly to their five game demise against the Los Angeles Kings in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

His 41 points this year are 10th amongst NHL defensemen, while his 26 powerplay points are highest in the league in that same category.  Yandle’s possession numbers are also encouraging, as he’s 2nd amongst defensemen with a 14.16 individual corsi/60 (min. 1000 minutes).  His 23:24 average time on ice should see a decrease, as he’ll more often than not be deployed on the Rangers second and third pairings.  Yandle primarily faced the opposition’s second tier in Arizona and that should remain the same in New York.

Yandle serves as more than just a rental for the Rangers, as he’s signed through 2016 on his current deal.  The fact that Sather was able to convince Arizona to retain half of his salary is nothing short of brilliance.  The move not only brought Yandle to New York, but also allowed the Rangers to re-sign impending UFA Mats Zuccarello late Sunday night.

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Which means plenty more of this:

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Much to the relief of Rangers fans everywhere.

James Sheppard is also on his way to the Big Apple (sharks.nhl.com)

James Sheppard is also on his way to the Big Apple (sharks.nhl.com)

In addition to Yandle, Sather was able to add a solid bottom six forward, acquiring winger James Sheppard from San Jose in exchange for a 2016 4th round pick.  Sheppard will most likely replace Lee Stempniak on the Rangers 4th line, as Stempniak was shipped off to Winnipeg on Sunday night.

Offensively, Sheppard is an albatross, registering only one point thus far in February.  His five goal total is certainly right in line with that of a 4th line grinder.  Defensively, however, it’s another story entirely.

(Ownthepuck.com)

(Ownthepuck.com)

Sheppard has also shown the ability to create turnovers.  Here, he’s compared to the rest of the Rangers bottom-six in regards to takeaways, with the solid blue dot representing Sheppard:

(Sportingcharts.com)

(Sportingcharts.com)

Sheppard and his potential linemates Dom Moore and Jesper Fast could create one of the most formidable shut down lines in all of the NHL, and I believe this will end up being one of the better value trades down the stretch.  Sheppard will provide defensive stability in the bottom-six, and while his offensive numbers are nothing to write home about, his defensive contributions should keep him firmly entrenched in the lineup.

While these moves go a long way in solidifying an already successful Rangers team, questions still remain.  Will Henrik Lundqvist return at 100%?  Will Tanner Glass keep getting ice time?  Is the acquisition of Yandle the final piece of a championship winning puzzle?  It’s too early for most of us to tell, but Glen Sather seems to think so.  The Rangers have moved all-in on the 2015 season, and for the sake of sanity, lets hope the gamble pays off.