The Rangers are in a cap crunch, one that won’t be resolved by next June. That can prove to be troublesome as Keith Yandle, their best puck moving defenseman and top scoring defenseman, is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Yandle is on pace for another 40 point season, which would be his seventh straight season with a 40 point pace (he had 30 in the 48 game lockout season). Yandle is one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the league, and is the only Ranger defenseman that has an offensive skill set like this.
Yandle’s current contract carries a $5.25 million cap hit, although the Rangers are only paying $2.625 million of it this season. Forty points at that salary is a clear bargain, especially when you consider he’s been fairly consistent –considering realistic expectations, not the dream that he’s Brian Leetch– this season. But the major question is about his next contract, and if the Rangers can afford him.
Using Josh’s PSAM tool for defensemen, we see that Yandle is clearly worth his current $5.25 million cap hit. He’s a bit behind in goals, but he more than makes up for it by dishing the puck out. This contract also makes him the 33rd highest paid defenseman in the league. Looking at the list of highest paid defensemen, there are some doozies in there.
It’s worth checking how Yandle compares to players in the next cap tiers. Here is how his numbers compare to the next levels of cap ranges:
It’s worth noting that the 10% range ($7.1 million through $7.8 million) is only four players (Weber, Suter, Letang, Campbell). The numbers are skewed greatly here due to Campbell’s inclusion in that list. He really brings the average down, which makes that bar incredibly deceiving.
The 9% range ($6.4 million through $7.1 million) includes Pietrangelo, Phaneuf, Doughty, Chara, and Karlsson. Aside from Pietrangelo, these guys aren’t really in the same mold as Yandle. And even then, Pietrangelo is significantly younger and last signed as a restricted free agent. I don’t think Yandle is at this level, and his numbers really show it. He’s one notch below that level.
The 8% range ($5.7 million through $6.4 million) seems to be right where Yandle fits. His goals stats are lower, but his assists more than make up for it. His possession numbers are right in line as well. Players in this category include Boychuk, Green, Seabrook, Burns, Markov, Enstrom, and Niskanen. Green and Niskanen are the two guys of note here.
Mike Green left Washington for Detroit, signing a three-year, $18 million deal. Injuries were a concern for Green though, which likely drove the decision on term, not dollar amount. Niskanen is signed to a seven-year deal that pays him $5.75 million per year. Let’s see how Yandle compares to this duo.
Green blows both out of the water, which shows that Green is still one of the very best offensive defensemen in the league. But Yandle has Niskanen beat by a wide margin in every single category. Just based off this, Yandle deserves more than Niskanen, who signed his deal two seasons ago.
Based off production alone, it’s safe to assume Yandle’s next deal is going to be at least $5.75 million to match Niskanen’s deal. Green is probably the best comparable. Injuries held Green’s contract back a bit, but $6 million sounds about right for Yandle. Since there are no injury questions, it wouldn’t shock me to see Yandle get six years and $6 million per season. If that’s the case, then the Rangers might be in some trouble if they want to keep him around.