The Panthers announced on Monday that they’ve acquired negotiating rights to pending UFA defenseman Keith Yandle from the Rangers in exchange for a 2016 6th-round draft pick and a conditional 2017 4th-round pick.
After trading Erik Gudbranson and finishing 23rd on the power play at the season’s end, the Panthers knew they had to not only fill a small hole on their blue-line but also bring in some more offensive firepower. The Panthers did exactly that by acquiring Yandle, and although he’s not signed to a contract just yet, the team expects something to get done soon.
“Eric Joyce and Steve Werier, our assistant GMs, are negotiating a contract with his agent,” said GM Tom Rowe earlier today on during a conference call. “We wouldn’t have made the trade if we weren’t confident that we could come to a conclusion and get him into our system.”
Last season, Yandle recorded 5 goals and 42 assists in 82 games for the Rangers and is ranked second in power play points among defensemen with 92 since 2012. He plays a smart, two-way game and is known around the league for his power play prowess and offensive abilities, so if the Panthers are able to get him signed, a whole new door of possibilities will be opened for them during both 5v5 and special teams.
We were told that the Panthers did have interest in the likes of Tyson Barrie and Sami Vatanen among others, although the later is expected to re-sign with the Avalanche while the former signed a deal just a few days ago. Yandle just finished up the final year of a 5-year, $5.25 million contract and could be looking for a new deal worth anywhere from $5.5 to $6.5 million. Rowe admitted that their was risk in acquiring Yandle due to the fact that he doesn’t have to sign with the team, but went on to say that it was a risk they were willing to take after discussing it on Monday morning in Buffalo. He also mentioned that both Brian Campbell and Al Montoya are likely to test free agency, and today’s deal certainly feels like it happened as a result of the 37-year old defenseman looking to find a new home.
If the Panthers are unable to sign Yandle to a contract before July 1st, he’ll become a free agent and therefore free to sign and field offers from any team. The Rangers will only receive the 2017 4th-rounder if the Panthers are able to sign Yandle.
Although it’s yet to be confirmed by the team, sources have confirmed that the Panthers have signed defenseman Ian McCoshen to a 3-year, entry-level contract. McCoshen was drafted in 31st overall at the 2013 NHL Draft and has been a standout at Boston College for the past 3 years. This year, he tallied 6 goals and a career-high 15 assists for the Eagles while boasting a plus-minus rating of +30. Panthers GM Tom Rowe said today that he believes the 20-year old defenseman could make the team out of training camp, and considering the fact that the bottom pairing is a bit unclear at this point, it’s certainly a possibility.
Hockey Ops changes
The Panthers also announced several changes in their hockey operations department a few days ago. The two main changes are that Jason Bukala has been named Co-Director of Amateur Scouting while Al Tuer has been named Head Pro Scout. Bukala has served as the team’s assistant head amateur scout for the past 5 seasons while Tuer has been a pro scout for the past 6 seasons.
They also announced the hiring of Toby O’Brien and he’ll serve as Co-Director of Amateur Scouting alongside the recently-promoted Bukala. O’Brien has spent the last 10 years – 5 each – as an amateur with the Sabres and the Islanders and served as General Manager and Head Coach of the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs for 10 years from 1996 to 2006. Richard Pollock will also join the Panthers as a pro scout after he spent almost 10 years writing for a website he founded titled Illegal Curve in addition to serving as a TSN radio analyst and NHL commentator. Tom Rowe noted that at the end of the day, the Panthers were eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs, and these scouting department moves give them new and different voices in the room.
The final major change announced by the Panthers is the promotion of Josh Weissbock to the position of Prospect Consulting Specialist. Weissbock was hired last year along with Cam Lawrence, and the two have served as consultants regarding trades and other roster decisions, including the Gudbranson-McCann trade from last month. It’s likely they’ve had a huge role in assisting scouts and management in getting ready for the draft, and Thomas Drance even reported recently that one or both will be at the Panthers’ draft table this year.
Weissbock’s title is a nod to a statistical model that he and Lawrence have worked on for years called the Prospect Cohort Success model, also known as “PCS.” The model uses data of current NHL players and past drafts to attempt to determine how successful a player will be in the future. Both have extensive knowledge of players and prospects alike and have, in a way, served as two more scouts for the Panthers over the past several months.
Here are the 3 other changes that were announced:
• Jerome Burke named Director of Hockey Operations
• Braden Birch named Assistant to the General Manager
• Stiles Burr named Manager of Team Services
Regarding the upcoming draft, Tom Rowe specifically stated that the team will not be drafting a goaltender and will instead focus on selecting the best player available whether it’s a forward or a defenseman. He also noted that the team wants players with “offensive flare and high skill” which is in sharp contrast to previous years where the Panthers have leaned more toward players with size and sometimes not as much skill as surrounding picks. The 2016 NHL Draft begins with the first round on Friday.