Slapshot Fantasy

Keith Yandle’s Fantasy Season is About to Turn Around

Those fantasy hockey managers who, on average according to fantasypros.com, took Keith Yandle sixty-first overall on draft day have been regretting the decision all winter long. Yandle, for all of his skill and years of production with the Coyotes franchise, has failed to live up to expectations thanks largely in part to being poorly utilized by the Rangers’ coaching staff.

Although those who have Yandle on their fantasy teams may not believe it, especially in CBS leagues where he had an average pick of 39, the American defender leads all Rangers blueliners in scoring. His only real competitor, Ryan McDonagh, just suffered a concussion, which is dreadful news for Rangers fans but there’s a silver lining for Yandle’s fantasy hockey managers.

The injury to Rangers captain McDonagh means more ice time and, most importantly, more power play ice time for Yandle. Dan Boyle leads all Rangers’ defensemen in power play time on ice per game with 2:35 and is followed by Yandle who sees an average of 2:23. After McDonagh and his 2:16 of power play time each game there isn’t another New York defenseman who sees significant time on the man advantage. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has been widely criticized for his poor deployment of Yandle – who sometimes doesn’t get on the ice with the top unit and Mats Zuccarello.

An all-but-guaranteed feature role on the Rangers power play, in addition to an increase of even strength ice time is great news for Yandle’s fantasy numbers.

Having just eight power play points to his name thus far this season is certainly discouraging considering that he had 29 in the 84 game season he split between Arizona and New York, but Yandle’s power play production during his time with the Rangers hasn’t ever been anything to write home about. In the 21 games he played with the Rangers last season Yandle scored just three power play points.

Yet another layer to his increasing fantasy value is the likelihood that he will be traded by the Rangers. With Dustin Byfuglien recently locked up by the Winnipeg Jets, Yandle is undoubtedly the most attractive puck-moving defender on an expiring contract. And it’s certainly no secret that his name has been making the rounds in the rumor mill all winter long.

The NHL’s trade deadline is fast approaching and the Rangers are seen as a long shot to be a Cup contender. The chances of general manager Jeff Gorton moving Yandle to avoid the risk of getting nothing for him should he walk in free agency are high.

Before the ink dried on Byfuglien’s deal, the asking price for Yandle went up and with it comes the potential of him having a change of scenery and joining a team set to make it several rounds in the playoffs. The Rangers’ loss could soon be the gain of many fantasy hockey managers who have been patient with Yandle’s decline on Broadway.

This season Yandle is outside of fantasy hockey’s top 25 most valuable defensemen in standard scoring categories. Without being dragged down by the perennially awful plus-minus numbers that came hand-in-hand with playing in Arizona there were high hopes for a special year in his first full season in New York. Being sixth in ice time among defenders on the Rangers has had a lot to do with his numbers not being where his fantasy managers were hoping they’d be in early February.

No McDonagh for the foreseeable future means that the Rangers will have to ask all of their defensemen, including Yandle who has many years of top pairing experience from his time in the Coyotes franchise, to eat up more minutes. More time on ice, playing in a contract year, a featured role on New York’s top man advantage unit, and likely being dealt to another contender that will almost certainly have a better power play are all great reasons why Yandle’s fantasy season is about to change for the better.

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