a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Monday, 18 March 2013

03/14/13 Trade Targets: Keith Yandle..?

Way back in June, a report came out from Darren Millard at the draft, which said explicitly that a "deal is close" involving Keith Yandle. Obviously the trade never materialized, but that's often the case with significant trades at the draft. Could he move now?

The short answer is: probably not. The Phoenix Coyotes are currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference and are only four points on either side away from 14th and 4th. With such slim margin for error and a market that needs the playoffs to have the slightest hint of a chance of staying put, it's unlikely that the Coyotes would part with Yandle now.

But that doesn't mean that it won't happen. The Coyotes recently extended left-shooter Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a 6 year deal (damnit), and he's not alone on the Coyotes' left defense. Rusty Klesla, David Schlemko, Chris Summers and up-and-comer Brandon Gormley are all lefties; which of course is to say nothing of Yandle. OEL's new deal carries a cap hit that is $250,000 higher than the one that Yandle signed, which could possibly be an indication that the writing is on the wall.

It's not as though the Coyotes would be in any hurry to push Yandle out - they could have done that at the draft - but if the opportunity arose to bring more balance to the roster, Yandle is their best chip.

And balance is needed. The Coyotes are currently sitting in 19th with 2.55 Goals For per Game, Mikkel Boedker is their leading scorer with 18 points in 29 games, and it appears as though 36-year-old Shane Doan may finally have lost a step, with 16 points in 29 games so far. The Coyotes also have six UFA forwards this summer, and will need to remake part of their attack.

Yandle is getting an offensive zone start bump of 59% this year, which has surely helped to boost his Corsi, but he's been keeping his head above water for the last several years. He has also personally amassed 744 shots since 2008-09, which is the ninth-highest total of all NHL defensemen in that span. To put his shot totals in perspective, Yandle's 196 shots last year would have been second on the Oilers; his 199 shots the year before would have been first. Oh, and Yandle also has 43-150-193 in 344 games since 2008-09 (0.56 points per game).

He's not exactly facing the toughest of competition and zone starts, and he doesn't kill penalties, which seems to suggest that he's a bit one-dimensional. If you're looking for a guy to do it all, you're looking for Ekman-Larsson and he's not going anywhere. But Yandle has shown that he can be a very useful cog in a finely tuned machine and is playing over 19 minutes per game at even strength this season and 3:35 on the powerplay. Established defenders with top-pairing potential don't exactly grow on trees, so the Oilers would be wise to take a look.

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