In the first of what likely will be several moves in the coming weeks, the Rangers on Monday swapped the negotiating rights to unrestricted free agent defenseman Keith Yandle to the Florida Panthers for a sixth round pick in next weekend’s draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2017.
Yandle, 29, was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes and had five goals and a team-best 42 assists in 82 games last season, but the Rangers did not expect to be able to resign the Boston native, who likely will command a long-term contract of more than $6 million per season.
If Yandle and the Panthers fail to reach an agreement, he becomes a free agent on July 1, and the Blueshirts would not get the conditional pick.
Thinking that Yandle, who spent his entire career with Coyotes, would ignite their power play, the Rangers front office acquired him in March 2015 for top prospect Anthony Duclair, a first-round pick this year and defenseman John Moore. The Rangers also received a fourth-round pick and defenseman Chris Summers as part of the trade. The Coyotes also agreed to retain 50 percent of Yandle’s salary.
During last season, the Rangers declined to put Yandle on the market at the trade deadline, hoping that with his help, they would make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Instead, they were eliminated in the first round. Yandle finished the season with two power play goals and 20 assists. Duclair, 20, had 20 goals and 44 points in his first full season in Arizona.