In a blockbuster, multi-player deal on the day before the NHL's trade deadline, the Rangers, clearly in win-now mode, on Sunday acquired Arizona Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle for prize prospect Anthony Duclair, a first-round draft choice in 2016 and defenseman John Moore.
The stunning transaction brings Yandle, 28, with a $5.25-million salary-cap hit, to Broadway for next season as well. But the Coyotes will pay 50 percent of his salary, which gives the Blueshirts more room to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Mats Zuccarello to a four- or five-year contract. Negotiations, which had stalled, were ongoing on Sunday.
It was widely known that the Rangers were looking for depth on defense, but Yandle is a top-four blueliner. The acquisition of the Boston-born power-play quarterback, who has 41 points in 63 games, also indicates management's disappointment in Dan Boyle, 38, the former San Jose Sharks defenseman who was signed to a two-year, $9-million contract last summer. The Rangers' power play has three goals in the last 10 games.
Yandle, who is 6-1 and 190 pounds, was a fourth-round pick of the Coyotes in 2005, and has appeared in 557 games, with 65 goals and 245 assists. In 27 playoff games, he is 3-16-19. Defensively, Yandle has had his struggles: He has a minus-55 rating over the last two seasons.
Boyle, who has missed 17 games with injuries, including a broken hand, and illnesses, has looked a step slow and unsure defensively at times. He has eight goals and 15 points in 44 games and has been moved to the third defense pair.
Under new ownership, the Coyotes are in full rebuilding mode. Center Antoine Vermette, whom the Rangers also considered, was sent to the Blackhawks on Saturday.
"Keith Yandle was a terrific player and leader for us," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said in a release confirming the parameters of the deal. "We would like to thank him for all his contributions to the organization over the past nine seasons."
The key for Arizona was the speedy Duclair, 19, who spent 18 games with the Rangers earlier this season, scoring a goal and adding seven assists, before being loaned to Team Canada's gold medal-winning World Junior Championship team, and then returned to his junior club, the Quebec Remparts.
Moore, 24, is a restricted free agent who has been unable to secure his role as a sixth defenseman. He has a goal and five assists in 38 games. Moore was acquired, along with Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, in the April 2013 trade with Columbus for Marian Gaborik.
The teams will also swap draft picks in June: The Rangers, who have two second-rounders, sent one to Arizona; they will receive a fourth-rounder from them. The Rangers also acquired Chris Summers, 27, a defenseman who has played in 64 NHL games.
It is the third consecutive year that Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather has pulled off a major exchange near the deadline. Last season, he acquired Martin St. Louis from Tampa for captain Ryan Callahan, who was an unrestricted free agent mired in a contract impasse, and two first-rounders. The previous season, with John Tortorella behind the bench, he shipped out Gaborik.