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Yandle has Rangers focused on Stanley Cup run

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- There's no doubt the New York Rangers and their fans are hoping for a long and successful run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After making three trades in a span of a few hours Sunday, general manager Glen Sather would expect nothing less.

Keith Yandle
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 37 | PTS: 41
SOG: 185 | +/-: -32
The biggest was the acquisition of defensemen Keith Yandle and Chris Summers, and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, from the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman John Moore, forward prospect Anthony Duclair, a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional first-round pick in 2016.

"I like [Yandle's] style and I knew [Arizona GM Don Maloney] liked Duclair because of the way he played with [Arizona prospect] Max Domi at the World Junior Championship," Sather said Monday. "Domi and Duclair played together [for Canada]. It's a calculated risk whenever you do a deal, but this was the kind of player I wanted, the kind of player I was watching for a long time.

"[Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson] had him in Phoenix, knows the player very well, and knows his character, background and history. This is not a long shot [trade] and we'll just see how it evolves."

Sather said he felt the trade could have a similar impact to the one in July 2012 that brought forward Rick Nash to New York in a five-player trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sather said Yandle was a player he had in his crosshairs for quite some time.

"I've talked to Don the last couple of years about Yandle but he was never anxious to do anything," Sather said. "When he was here [Feb. 26] we spoke a little bit about it and we spoke about it when we were in Arizona [Feb. 14]. When we got down closer to the last few days I laid the proposal down in front of him, and he called me back right away and was very interested."

Sather said the recent play of center Kevin Hayes, who has five goals and 11 points in the past 12 games, made it a little easier to part with Duclair.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he believes Duclair will have success in Arizona.

"I love [Duclair]," Vigneault said. "I thought he was a great young prospect. But to get a quality young player you have to give up a quality player."

Yandle, 28, said the Rangers have made the transition smooth. He'll be in the lineup against the Nashville Predators on Monday and split time alongside Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein.

"A couple of the guys on the team called me and I got a text from Brian Leetch [Monday], which was pretty cool and meant a lot," Yandle said. "The last couple of days have been crazy but it's special to be here and an honor. If you just look at the back end out, the Rangers are as strong as any team. They are fast up front, have tons of speed and skill, and the goaltending is best in the League. I can't find a weak flaw in the lineup so it's pretty cool to be a part of it."

The Rangers also traded forward Lee Stempniak to the Winnipeg Jets for forward Carl Klingberg and sent a 2016 fourth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for forward James Sheppard. Sheppard will not be in the lineup, Vigneault said.

"It's a strong vote of confidence to our players that we feel we have a team that can compete for the Cup and these moves have been made with a lot of thinking," Vigneault said. "We thought we needed to upgrade ourselves a little bit in the back end as far as puck movement so we made the move for Keith.

"We felt we needed more depth at the center position so we got Sheppard and I feel we're in a good spot."

Vigneault said the trades won't change the dynamic or chemistry of the Rangers, like what happened last year when captain Ryan Callahan and two draft picks were traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Martin St. Louis. That trade ultimately worked out, however, when St. Louis helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final.

With much of the Rangers roster consisting of players in the prime of their careers, the trades made by Sather may signal a win-at-all-cost maneuver. The Rangers last celebrated a Stanley Cup in 1994.

Sather was asked if he felt he mortgaged the team's future for a shot at winning it all this season.

"I don't think we've given anything away," Sather said. "I think the players we've acquired are terrific assets for the team. We got to the [Eastern] Conference Final last year with the deal we made. I can't predict where we'll end up this year but certainly think that [Yandle] is a great player. He's going to help us a lot."

Yandle told two weeks ago that he wasn't bothered by rumors of being traded from the only team he played for in his nine seasons in the League. Now he's grateful to have a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup.

"I just have to come in and help wherever I can," he said. "This is a great team. It was a tough situation in Arizona where we were having trouble winning games. But it's a new day and for me it's exciting."

Does Sather believe he has constructed a team that can win the Stanley Cup?

"I don't have a crystal ball," Sather said. "Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up."

Yandle led the Coyotes with 41 points and was second in average ice time per game at 23:54. His biggest asset is on the power play, where his 26 points lead NHL defensemen and are tied for fourth in the League. It isn't too far-fetched to believe Yandle could become New York's best power-play quarterback since Leetch, who spent 17 seasons with the Rangers and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Yandle, who closes out a five-year contract at the end of the 2015-16 season, has 143 power-play points in 558 games. The Rangers' power play, which has two goals on 21 chances in its past eight games, ranks No. 11 in the League at 18.8 percent.

"We're finding ways to win and the power play and penalty kill are in top-third in the League and they haven't been as bad as the perception is," Vigneault said. "We understand we need to improve some areas but we have a good team and a good group of guys who want to win. We just added some pieces that are important. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Keith Yandle should help out on our power play."


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