Does Yandle trade signal the start of another losing off-season?


Keith Yandle (L) celebrates with Ryan McDonagh (R)

When the Rangers traded Keith Yandle’s UFA rights to the Florida Panthers for a sixth and conditional fourth round pick, it was more than the loss of an elite puck moving defenseman.

What the move brought up to the forefront, again, is the Rangers’ front offices inability to identify and secure talent.

The front offices failures since the 2014 Stanley Cup Final visit have been talked about at length, as they should be. Especially on the defensive side of things, where a defense that was once a somewhat stingy unit is now going to be in a state of flux as we wait on further moves in Gorton’s off-season frenzy. It is this way for one reason and one reason only: those making personnel decisions have picked the wrong guys to stay and the wrong guys to go.

The validity of this trend is only proved further by Yandle’s departure. It comes at a time when the Rangers Cup window, continually being forced open by Henrik Lundqvist, can’t afford another fatal blow.

Sure, there are salary cap implications. Obviously the Rangers were tight on dollars. But things could have been done before July 1 to secure the best offensive defenseman the team has had since Brian Leetch. They opted to watch yet another top-four defenseman slip out of their grasp. One wonders if this might be the final blow to the Lundqvist-driven Cup contention period.

Let’s take a look at why:

The Rangers were an awful possession team with Yandle in the fold. Now without Yandle—the team’s only positive possession player in 2015-16—they’ll squirm. It’s important to highlight, being that the Rangers possession issues are largely driven by the backend. In case we need reminding, one team has won the Cup since 2007-08 with a negative regular-season CF%, Pittsburgh in 2009.

Moving Yandle also makes it written in stone that the Rangers have no plans to burn the contract of Dan Girardi, or (convince to waive NMC) and move Marc Staal in the 11 days remaining before July 1. This, again, shows the prevailing theme: picking the wrong guys to stay and the wrong guys to go.

While the theme this off-season is change, last year it was about cap casualties. Carl Hagelin isn’t complaining, but he was one of those casualties. The Girardi and Staal contracts have now cost the team Yandle and Hagelin in consecutive summers, with more turnover on the way. Yikes.

So the Yandle trade, one which fans will say “they had to make,” is a lot bigger than just giving up on the third leading defensive point-scorer since 2010 (behind only Erik Karlsson and Dustin Byfuglien). It shows that the “new” regime, which only needed to figure out a way to make the Rangers defend less and have the puck more, isn’t interested in doing that.

If they are interested in doing it, they don’t know how to achieve it.

There is no silver lining to the Yandle exodus. Barring major changes, it’s a move in the direction of slamming the Cup window closed—which has happened far too often since the summer of 2014.

When this core fails to get the job done, Rangers’ management will be to blame.

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