Jul 5, 2011, 6:56 PM EDT
Sure the Phoenix Coyotes are still owned by the NHL but GM Don Maloney can make magic happens when he has to. With young up and coming defenseman Keith Yandle a restricted free agent this summer, getting him locked up to a long term deal while under a budget seemed like it would be tough to do.
Apparently all it is for the Coyotes is expensive as the team locked Yandle up for five more years for $26.25 million. That cap hit for the Coyotes works out to be $5.25 million per year over the course of the term making him one of the better paid defensemen in the NHL. Fortunately for the Coyotes, Yandle is also one of the better blue liners in the game.
Maloney says there’s good reason why they’re happy to hang on to him.
“Keith is an elite player and one of the game’s best young defenseman,” said Maloney. “He is an important part of our future and we are thrilled to sign him to a long-term contract.”
Last season, Yandle had a break out season in Phoenix scoring 11 goals and adding 48 assists and a career high 59 points. Yandle has improved each season he’s been in the NHL and his play last year had some people talking about him in the crowd for the Norris Trophy. While his play slowed down a bit in the second half of the year, the 24 year-old Boston, Massaschusetts native proved himself over the course of the full season adding play making abilities to his credit.
Yandle became the Coyotes top defenseman and averaged over 24 minutes of ice time last season because of it. With the added responsibilities the Coyotes thrived with Yandle out there and for a team that had some problems producing goals, Yandle was a constant helper in doing so finishing just one point behind Shane Doan for the team lead in points.
Outside of Ilya Bryzgalov, there was no more important player to the Coyotes last season than Keith Yandle. Hanging on to him for the long term was a no-brainer decision for the team and if he continues to improve his play and produce more points, he’ll wind up being a Norris finalist one day.
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