The Panthers made a couple of deals today which included the signing of pending-UFA Keith Yandle to 7-year deal worth $44.45 million and the trading of Rocco Grimaldi to the Colorado Avalanche for goaltender Reto Berra.
The Panthers locked up Yandle to a long-term deal just as the clock struck 12 AM in Sunrise, Florida, and the fact that an agreement was reached didn’t come as too much of a surprise as both Yandle’s agent, Jerry Buckley, and GM Tom Rowe both sounded positive and confident that a deal would get done when speaking to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN on Wednesday morning.
“We’re thrilled,” co-owner Doug Cifu told the media after the signing was completed early this morning. “This shows that top players want to win in Florida. Keith wants to win the Stanley Cup in Florida. That’s why we were his top priority and vice versa.”
With members of the Panthers’ management in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards show and Buffalo for Friday’s draft, Yandle was apparently not brought down the Florida as a way of trying to convince him to sign with the Panthers, although he was very interested in making something happen. Jaromir Jagr was awarded the Masterton Trophy at the award show on Wednesday for “perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” Executive Chairman Peter Luukko was there to accept the award on behalf of Jagr who was not in attendance as a result of his father being sick.
Yandle will bring a much-needed boost to the Panthers’ power play which has ranked 23rd, 23rd, and 30th in the last 3 seasons. The soon-to-be 30-year old blue-liner ranks 2nd in the league among defenseman with 92 power play points since 2012, trailing only P.K. Subban who is first with 94. Of Yandle’s 369 career points, 168 of them have come with the man-advantage, so it’s pretty likely that the Panthers’ special teams will improve to some degree come next season. Yandle will turn 37 shortly after the contract – which features a no-move for the first 6 years and a limited no-trade clause in year 7 – ends at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.
Later in the day, the Panthers sent forward Rocco Grimaldi to the Colorado Avalanche for goaltender Reto Berra. Berra expected to serve as Luongo’s backup for the upcoming season with Al Montoya reportedly headed for the free agent market come July 1st. During the 2015-16 season, Berra posted a save percentage of .922 in 14 games and a mark of .918 in 19 games during the 2014-15 season. Considering Colorado has struggled defensively for the past several years, these are solid numbers, and they’ll only get better with the Panthers’ solid defensive system playing in front of him.
When it comes to Grimaldi, the truth is his time simply ran out with the Panthers. Although he seemed to have played better in his most recent stint with the team – which came at the end of the regular season and went into the playoffs – he was given numerous opportunities to step up in place of injured players and he just wasn’t able to do it.
With Kyle Rau having impressed the team in his lone stint last season, and with 2015 4th-round pick Denis Malgin – who’s similarly undersized at 5’9″ – close to signing his entry-level contract with the Panthers, Grimaldi became the odd man out when it comes to smaller players in the organization.
Berra has one year left on his contract with a cap hit of $1.45 million while Grimaldi, 23, is set to become a restricted free-agent at the end of the upcoming season.