What is Keith Yandle Worth?

all stats to follow provided by corsica.hockey and war-on-ice.com and span a bit of a time period, as this blog was written over the course of a few weeks. Sorry.

The New York Rangers have dug themselves into a hole. Anchored by two contracts with NMCs to boot in Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, outside of some fancy finagling by GM Jeff Gorton, they'll have to let Yandle walk as a UFA. The question then becomes for other NHL GMs, well, what is Yandle worth?

On a broad scale... a lot. 

Since 2013-2014, Yandle has recorded 147 points in all situations, good for 6th among defensemen in that time period, preceded by names like Karlsson, Burns, Subban, Keith, and Josi. Yandle has also played in 240 games in that time period, more than any other player. And, as we know, NHL GMs like d-men who can log ice time.

There is no denying that Yandle is one of the premiere offensive defensemen in the NHL today. And, he will be without a doubt the prized possession on the UFA market this year among D. 

The rest of this blog will be focused on the investigative process, but, if you clicked here for the hard number, I'd say Jerry Buckley (Yandle's agent), is due for a nice commission this July. Get the down payment for that boat ready, Jerry. With Yandle's evaluation, in my opinion, coming in anywhere from $6.25 to $7million per year.

Here's how I got to that number...

After discovering that Yandle is indeed 6th overall in recent defensemen scoring, the first step here was to compare him to the guys that are often labelled as elite defensemen in this league, and rightfully so. These three players being Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and PK Subban. In terms of driving offense for his team, here's how Yandle stacks up:

Yandle is roughly on par with PK Subban, but if you imagine a little regression line in there, you can see that his expected relative Scoring Chances should be higher than it is, pacing a little below the line of best fit. [Don't forget that guy in the bottom-left corner there is Dan Girardi, one of the players the Rangers will be keeping over Yandle this off-season. NMCs, man...]

Using shot attempts and scoring chances as an expected proxy for driving offense and preventing goals is all well and good, but where does Yandle actually compare to these guys in those departments?

Yandle finds himself roughly in the middle of the pack here (lines on the charts denote 0 for relative metrics, and the average of the data set for y-axis goal based values). And, before you go using that top chart as fuel for the fire that Doughty is better than Karlsson, remember that raw goal numbers are heavily goalie and team biased.

In the primary points (goals plus primary assists) department, Yandle trails these guys in the 5v5 realm, but a lot of his usefulness to teams is on the power play.

The all situations chart is key here. Understanding that a lot of the focus of advanced statistics investigation comes 5v5, with a player like Yandle, we cannot ignore what he brings to the table for his teams 5v4.

Comparing Yandle to the elite is all well and good, but what about the players who share similarities to Yandle? Using the methodology from how we can go about predicting players futures [with some changes to cater to defensemen instead of forwards], we can get a list of similar player seasons to Yandle's 2015-2016 campaign. Those players are (along with their similarity score out of 100, and the season in which they compare to Yandle this season)...

Not sure how or why Shane O'Brien ended up on here, but hey, if the 'algorithm' says O'Brien should be there, I'm leaving him there.

For the sake of projecting the future, however, some cuts to this list had to be made. Since we are looking ahead, we can't rightfully use players whose season is similar to Yandle's being this season. On top of that, we needed players with enough future data to take a look down the line to what we may be able to expect from Yandle as he enters his thirties. Thus, from the list above, the focus was put on to Markov, Morris, Liles, Campbell, Keith, and Streit.

The first step here after gaining this list of similar players was to map out how their careers looked in terms of 5v5 point production, paced over 82 games.

We can see that roughly past age 30, a lot of these guys tended to hover around the 20 point mark in terms of 5v5 play. If you're thinking like me, you're thinking that's really not that many points. I agree. Last season, 35 d-men would go on to record over 20 points 5v5, and only 5 of those d-men were 30 or older (Wideman, Daley, Giordano, Keith, Streit). With that in mind, these numbers actually make a bit of sense.

Some of these guys also found themselves getting paid on the UFA market. Here, we can see their AAV mapped over time

Finally, if we add all these data points to the same chart, and add a smoothed line on top of it, we can see where the expected AAV per season is.

This chart includes all 11 players that were comparable to Yandle, and not the 6 that were subset above.

This chart includes all 11 players that were comparable to Yandle, and not the 6 that were subset above.


Truth is, despite that they aren't normally near the top of the league in 5v5 scoring, GMs have not been shy about paying d-men entering the free agent market at age 30. Couple that with the fact that Yandle has had three very good years recently, stays healthy, and is helping carry the Rangers power play, he could be looking at a contract much closer to Campbell's than anyone else here.

Yandle also compares quite well to Duncan Keith, as we've seen, but I can't imagine a GM inking Yandle to a thirteen-year deal this off-season. In the first seven years of Keith's deal, perhaps one more year than Yandle will get, Keith's AAV is $7.536 million. 

Is the Wade Redden 6 year, $39 million deal really that out of the question for Yandle? No way.

And, judging by the above, we can see that NHL GMs truly are not shy about throwing money at defensemen, again, especially those that can generate offense and log heavy minutes consistently.

A true shame for the Rangers that they currently have $11.2 million of cap dollars tied up in unmovable deals for d-men who probably don't deserve them at this point. But hey, that's the pain of the NMC.