When the Florida Panthers traded a conditional 2017 fourth-round pick and a 2016 seventh-round pick to the New York Rangers for the negotiating rights for Keith Yandle, it felt like a pretty good deal for then-GM Tom Rowe.
One year removed from New York surrounding John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a 2016 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round for a package featuring Yandle, Chris Summers, and a fourth-round pick, the team opted against re-signing the then-29-year-old forward, the Rangers opted to ship the former Arizona Coyote to Florida for pennies on the dollar after it became abundantly clear they couldn’t afford the contract he would demand on the open market.
That assumption ultimately proved to be correct, as the Panthers locked up Yandle on a seven-year, $44.45 million deal – the 27th highest mark of any defensemen in the NHL even now.
But hey, one organization’s loss is another’s gain, and it’s incredibly hard to say that Yandle hasn’t come as advertised during his tenure with the Panthers – especially after scoring his 100th career goal in his 867th straight game in the Panthers’ opening-night win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Florida Panthers’ opening night win was record book-worthy for Yandle.
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Facing off against one of the worst teams in the NHL – a situation made all the more dire by the offseason losses of Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews – the Panthers made up for their first two postponed contests against the Dallas Stars with a strong showing on their home ice.
Despite failing to score a goal in the first period – an understandable byproduct of a late start to the season – the Panthers put up two quick ones in the early minutes of the second period and entered the second intermission with a 2-1 lead that proved near-insurmountable for a Blackhawks squad still trying to find their footing.
Despite playing the fewest shifts and the second-fewest minutes of any defensemen on Joel Quenneville’s squad, Yandle proved himself to be by far the most impactful – scoring his aforementioned 100th goal five minutes and 24 seconds into the second period to go along with three shots, a giveaway, two penalty minutes, and a +/- of 2.
Despite being the third-oldest player on a roster with an average age of 26.3, Yandle looked like a player five years younger. He kept his skates moving, (mostly) stayed in his zones, and provided exceptional value as a third-line right defenseman. He also, funny enough, got to share some ice time with Anthony Duclair, the player he was traded for all of those years ago, which has to be a serendipitous sight for fans of the NHL.
Fun fact: With 978 games under his belt and counting, Yandle is currently tied with Patrick Kane for the 47th most games played of any active player in the NHL right now. While he will almost surely never overtake players like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, or even Brent Burns for the top spot, it’s still an accomplishment none-the-less.
With 55 games left to play – assuming the two-game series against the Dallas Stars is rescheduled – there’s a solid chance Keith Yandle will not only be able to keep his ironman streak intact but also add a few more goals to his total both historically and as a member of the Florida Panthers. For fans who had to wait a few extra nights to see their favorite team take the ice on opening night, what more could you ask for?