To Trade or Not to Trade? The Keith Yandle Situation and NYR defense going forward

New York Rangers v Boston Bruins

Yandle (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Keith Yandle situation with the Rangers is unlike any in recent memory. Sure, there was the deadline drama with Ryan Callahan a few years ago (and Yandle certainly isn’t causing the kind of contract tension Callahan was) but there is so much more involved here and at this point in time, it is looking like it will indeed go down to the wire.  We really won’t know about Yandle’s future in New York (if he even has one at this point) until possibly deadline day.

It all comes down to how well the Rangers can play the next few weeks of the season and if management thinks that the team they have put together can win the Stanley Cup this year. Right now, it isn’t looking like it and although there have been some improvements, the Rangers have a lot of holes right now.

As tension among the fans grows with the calling for the usual, “trade this guy,” “fire AV,” “let’s get (insert unattainable forward here) for a seventh rounder and Tanner Glass”, it doesn’t make things easier. The defense has holes in it, goals aren’t coming on a regular basis and even Hank hasn’t been his normal self. Something has to give and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

The Rangers right now have two very simple, yet complicated options: trade Keith Yandle to a team seeking a top pair defensemen, or keep Keith Yandle and trade one of their other blueliners either now or in the summer in order to sign him back to the team.

If the Rangers opt to trade Yandle, they won’t have a problem finding a team who wants his services. Yandle is one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL and his vision on the ice is something not many players have. He can see passes that others can’t and he can quarterback a team’s power play which is something every team in the NHL can benefit from. If the Rangers aren’t doing so well by the deadline, they will most likely go this route and opt to trade Yandle for an offensively minded top six forward, or someone with that potential. Now just who could the Rangers trade Yandle for?

The hot item on the trade market right now is young Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathon Drouin. The young prospect was absolutely dominant in major junior hockey while playing for the Halifax Mooseheads where he piled up 242 points in 128 games. Although he hasn’t yet blossomed in the NHL, a reason for that could include him not getting top six minutes. Like Tyler Seguin before him, maybe all the kid needs is a change in scenery to unleash his potential.

As nice as this trade COULD be for the Rangers, it is looking unlikely after reports came out this week that the Lightning are looking for a “young for young” swap meaning that a player like Yandle might not be in their crosshairs. It would probably also take more than Yandle, possibly in the form of picks, to pry the promising youngster away from Tampa Bay and the Rangers don’t have many important picks to trade at this point. Could they include a first rounder? Yes but they might not since they have given up many first round picks in trades over the past few seasons.

Would bringing Drouin to the bright lights of New York City unleash his potential? Possibly. Could he be a bust? Possibly as well. There are going to be many suitors for Drouin and the Rangers just might get outbid. Other players that the Rangers could look to trade for are Loui Eriksson from the Boston Bruins, and Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. They have been linked to both in the past few weeks and seeing as both teams could use help on the blue line, Yandle would benefit them both.

Out of the two, Atkinson is younger and at this point would fit the Rangers system better as he plays a faster game as well. The Jackets and Rangers have a trading history so this possibility could become a reality and would be easier than a trade for Eriksson would be.

Also, if the Rangers happen to trade Yandle it makes last season’s deadline deal, where the Rangers traded budding star Anthony Duclair to the Arizona Coyotes, all that more painful.

Defense Pairs if Yandle is traded:

McDonagh – Klein
Staal – Boyle
Girardi – McIlrath

Now there is always the second option, and honestly the smarter option of the two: keeping Yandle a Ranger and figuring out a way to trade one of the albatross contracts the Rangers have in defense.

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Dan Girardi and Marc Staal just not have been themselves this season. Just the other day a highlight of Girardi’s struggles was gifting Alexander Ovechkin his 498th goal by basically tapping a puck onto his stick so he could shoot it into an open net. Staal, as well as Girardi, have looked just a step to slow this season. Is it possible that at the deadline, or maybe even during the offseason, the Rangers could convince one of them to waive their no move clauses? If they can’t, they risk losing Yandle for nothing if they keep him beyond the deadline.

Could the Rangers handle the loss of Staal, Girardi and/or Yandle if one of more of them were traded? Tough to say as it would all depend on how much of a workload Dylan McIlrath is ready for and if highly touted prospect Brady Skjei is ready and able to contribute to the lineup in New York every night. If Staal or Girardi are traded before the deadline the Rangers defense pairs could shape up like this:

Staal trade pairs:

Yandle – McDonagh
Klein – Boyle
McIlrath – Girardi

Girardi trade pairs:

Yandle – McDonagh
Klein – Staal
McIlrath – Boyle

No matter, if Yandle is traded at the deadline or retained during the summer, it is almost a certainty at this point that the Rangers defense will look much different next year. If they don’t win the cup this season, it might be time for the Rangers to consider retooling but that’s a story for another time.

One final note: Dan Girard left the Rangers 2-1 win over Boston last night with what is being called a laceration to his hand. If that injury is more than just day to day, it could put a whole wrinkle in this already messy situation.