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Trade Coverage

Panthers acquire Yandle's rights from Rangers

Florida sends sixth-round pick in 2016, conditional pick to New York for pending free agent defenseman

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers general manager Tom Rowe says his team is in win-now mode. The latest evidence came Monday.

The Panthers acquired the negotiating rights to veteran defenseman Keith Yandle from the New York Rangers for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a 2017 conditional fourth-round pick. Yandle is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and the 2017 pick will be transferred to the Rangers if the Panthers sign him.

"The fact that we're going after a guy like Keith Yandle probably tells you that [we're in win-now mode]," Rowe said in a conference call. "(Owners) Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu are guys that want to win, and they want to win like next year. All the moves that we do going forward, every single move, is going to be predicated on us winning a Stanley Cup. We want to win now. We think we can win now and we also feel we can continue to develop."

Yandle, 29, had five goals and 42 assists in 82 games with New York this season. He has 72 goals and 297 assists in 661 games between the Rangers and Arizona Coyotes.

Rowe said Yandle possibly could replace veteran defenseman Brian Campbell, who will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Rowe said the Panthers have had discussions with Campbell and his agent, but he said he expects Campbell to test the free agent market.

"We went after (Yandle) because we like the way he plays the game," Rowe said. "We feel with the forwards that we have up front, he really complements our offensive attack. It's no secret, he averages 50 points a season. We felt he was a real good fit. (Assistant GMs) Eric Joyce and Steve Werier are negotiating the contract with his agent tonight. We wouldn't have made the trade if we weren't confident that we could come to a conclusion and get him into our system.

"It was a risk worth taking given the ability of the player and the way the game is going and the way we were able to increase our possession numbers under (Coach Gerard Gallant) last year was real impressive. We thought adding a player of Keith's ability was going to make us that much more a playoff team and a serious contender going forward."

The trade for Yandle's rights was the third deal made by the Panthers since they were defeated in six games by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round after finishing the regular season with a franchise-record 103 points.

The Panthers acquired forward Jared McCann and 2016 second- and fourth-round picks from the Vancouver Canucks on May 25 for defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round selection; they acquired two prospects from the New Jersey Devils on June 10 for the contract of forward Marc Savard and a second-round pick in 2018.

"Even though we had success in the regular season, we had a great year, at the end of the day we got knocked out in the first round," said Rowe, who was named Panthers GM on May 16. "Some people may say, 'That's great, you made the playoffs, you got into the first round,' but we need to get better. We need to continue to improve."

Yandle joined the Rangers on March 1, 2015 when he was acquired in a trade with the Coyotes along with defenseman Chris Summers and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft for defenseman John Moore, forward Anthony Duclair, a second-round pick and a conditional first-round pick.

Along with the loss of Gudbranson and the possible departure of Campbell, the Panthers could lose captain Willie Mitchell from their defensive corps because of concussion issues.

Rowe said that contrary to published reports, the Panthers are not shopping defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. He said he expects 2013 second-round pick Ian McCoshen, who signed an entry-level contract after playing three seasons at Boston College, to compete for a roster spot out of training camp this September.

Adding Yandle would be just one more piece to the rebuilding of the Panthers' defense corps.

"Everything is a risk when you don't have him tied into a restricted free agency type of setup," Rowe said. "It's a risk, but we were very comfortable taking the risk. We didn't make the decision (with) one or two people. We're in Buffalo (for the draft). We had a real good discussion about it this morning with our pro scouts and they were confident, as our ownership was very confident, that it was worth the risk. He's a very good player, very good character guy, a guy that we think really helps us get a little bit closer."

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