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Yandle Already Feeling at Home in South Florida

by Jameson Olive JamesonCoop /

New faces on the blue line

New faces on the blue line: Yandle, Demers

Check out interviews with the Panthers' new defensemen Keith Yandle and Jason Demers during Florida's training camp

  • 01:41 •

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - When the Florida Panthers signed Keith Yandle to a seven-year deal in June, the organization not only acquired one of the league's most offensively gifted defenseman, but also his wife, Krysten, and daughters Lola, 3, and Mila, 4.

"We've been down here for over a month, with school starting early down here," said Yandle, who has settled in to a home in Fort Lauderdale. "We've gotten to do pretty much everything we wanted to do. There's lots to do and we're excited for the new adventure."

It's never easy moving to a new place, but Yandle says his family has been fantastic throughout the entire process. They understand that it's all a part of "daddy's job" and have greeted this latest adventure with open arms, eager to begin the next chapter of their life in South Florida.

Still, Yandle can't help but admire the fortitude his family has shown.

"The toughest part, for me, is that I get an automatic 25 friends," said Yandle, who previously played for both the Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers. "It's easy for me. For my wife and kids, it's picking up and starting over, having to make new friends and get to new schools, meet new people at schools, find a house and get all that stuff done. 

"It's a lot on my wife and kids, but they've been amazing. They understand that this is work and they obviously enjoy the ride as much as I do. I have a great support system at home."

Video: 7/14/16 Press Conference

At the rink, Yandle has also worked hard to establish a home away from home. He arrived to South Florida roughly one month before training camp was set to begin and participated in numerous informal skates at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, giving him a chance to get to know his new teammates both on and off the ice.

"I don't feel new," Yandle said. "I feel like I've been here for a while. That says a lot about the guys here. They make everybody feel welcome. Whether you're a 10-year veteran or a first-year guy, every guy is treated the same way. It starts with the training staff, the coaches, everyone. It's a great feeling in this locker room."

After setting franchise records for wins (47) and points (103) last season, the Panthers are hoping that Yandle's off-ice comfort will help the 6-foot-1, 196-pound defenseman transition seamlessly into Florida's lineup. The 30-year-old rearguard is expected to add an offensive spark to Florida's blue line and greatly improve a power play unit that ranked 23rd in the league in power-play conversion percentage (16.9) last season.

"It's nice that you get a training camp to get used to guys and get used to the team's system," Yandle said. "You're not just jumping right into games. I think these next couple weeks will help us really grow as a team and as individuals. It'll help us get ready for the start of the season."

Since 2010-11, Yandle has the second-most combined power-play points (129) behind Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (140). Last season, 22 of Yandle's 47 regular-season points for the Rangers came on the power play.

"What I can bring [to the team] is, hopefully, helping other guys be better," said Yandle, whose 42 assists ranked eighth among NHL defensemen last season. "With the amount of skill in this locker room and the passion that the guys have for the game, it's just one of those things that you want to help out. 

"I think the way I play, I pride myself on being a good passer and feeding guys. It's one of those things where I hope that I can help guys and guys will help me. I'm looking forward to it."

With an Opening Night matchup with the New Jersey Devils slated for Oct. 13 at the BB&T Center, Yandle will only have to wait a few more weeks before beginning the next chapter of his career with the Panthers. The Boston, Mass., native has already worked hard to ingratiate himself to Florida's core group of fans, calling them "really good," and his life off of the ice has finally begun to settle down after a wild and unforgettable summer.

The question now is: Does South Florida already feel like home?

"You know, it does," said Yandle, cracking a smile. "I think it started with meeting with ownership and management and the coaches. It just had a really family vibe to it. It's something that was a big factor for me and it's huge to have something like that, especially when you feel at home with your coaches or GMs or owners, it's a great feeling. They expect a lot from you and we've got to give them all we've got to give."

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