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It’s a Florida Panthers Mailbag! Keith Yandle questions (and more)

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Keith Yandle in action for the Florida Panthers early in the 2021 NHL season. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography (561) 488-0000

As we get into the heat of the Florida Panthers offseason, many questions are swirling around the local future of defenseman Keith Yandle.

When I kicked open the latest edition of our reader mailbag, I expected a few questions about what could happen between Yandle and the Panthers — and there was little disappointment.

You all did manage to ask some other questions as well.

Yeah, there is one about the team’s alternate jerseys.

As always, the questions our loyal readers send in are well thought out and made me think.

That’s a good thing.

Now, on to the summer Mailbag!

What do you think the chances are of: A) Keith Yandle waiving his NMC for the purpose of either a trade, buyout, or exposure in the expansion draft, and B) Chris Driedger staying with the Panthers? — Thomas Wareham

Well, we’re going to find out the answers to both of these scenarios very soon.

Let’s start with the Keith Yandle situation. The Panthers could buy out the remainder of his contract (two years) although that comes at a $5-plus million hit next season.

I have heard whispers of a handshake deal that was made between he and the team but nothing has been confirmed and when I asked Keith about it back before the season started, he told me the team has never asked him to waive his no-movement clause. You have to think they have by now although I have not been able to confirm that.

There are a couple of problems with the contract in that Keith has to want to play somewhere and the Panthers would have to facilitate a deal to said place. I do not think he will be playing for the Panthers next season, one way or another. Just a feeling.

Either he waives the deal and goes to Seattle (unlikely although I think he would become a breakout star there what with his personality and the popularity of a new team in a new market) or another team that needs to unload a contract. Buyout season is officially upon us, so we will see what happens in the next few days.

As far as the Driedger situation goes, it would be in the best interest of the Panthers if he were to sign a free agent deal with Seattle before the expansion draft and thereby become the Kraken’s Florida selection. Don’t know if that is going to happen.

The Seattle Expansion Draft: Who could the Florida Panthers lose?

With Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight here, Dreidger’s time with the Panthers is up. He deserves whatever he’s going to get next.

The Panthers would love to keep him; he would love to stay with the Panthers. It just isn’t in the stars — unless something like Bobrovsky being moved were to happen. And I do not see that happening, not this year.

Hey GR, will they protect The Butcher? — @jackdpmjd

I do not think they will. As it stands right now, if Florida protects three defensemen (and one of them is not Yandle although if he is not bought out and does not waive his NMC he has to be) then I think Florida would like to keep Gus Forsling as one of their three. Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar, obviously, are the other two.

Hi George, hope you are having a great summer!  Any chance we sign a defenseman this off season, and if so, who do you think Zito would would like to sign? — @pamela_abrell

Hi Pamela, I am and I hope you are as well. I do think the Panthers go looking for some more defensive help and perhaps it comes from someone close like re-signing Brandon Montour.

The Panthers did a pretty good job of finding Forsling and I think they would like to go a similar route. I don’t think we’re going to see Florida open up for an “elite” type player with the paycheck to match, but if they think there is a player out there who could develop into something here, they will be interested.

Happy Anniversary! Florida Hockey Now officially enters Year Two

Do you think there’s any chance the NHL will change their thinking and bring back the taxi squad, even if in a more abbreviated form? — @BarryARothman

No, because to do that, you are upsetting the order of how things work when it comes to the AHL. Last year was crazy, AHL teams didn’t play, we didn’t know how things were going to work. Next season will be back to normal with AHL teams playing full schedules and to full buildings.

Plus, you want your players to play. Last year, with the taxi squad, you could slide players in and out of the lineup as long as players did not have to go through waivers. Even with 23 players, you have guys who don’t get a lot of playing time over the course of a normal season. At least with the AHL, players will get the chance to play.

Do you think that the NHL owners should try to close the loophole in the contract that allowed Tampa to use Kucherov after the season was over.? Although it was not against the contract it sure leaves a bad taste for the way they do business. We all know he could have played before that, And we can call it the Kucherov Rule. Stay Safe! — Thomas Ciampi

Thanks Thomas, you as well. The “Kucherov Rule” has been in the CBA for years. You know the downside of not playing a player? Not playing the player. This was a strange year due to the short season and the easier path to the playoffs — for the most part.

Kucherov was legitimately hurt (he had major surgery) for a majority of the season. Could he have come back for the final month — or two weeks — of the season? Yeah, maybe. But there was no need to do that.

The Lightning knew it was in the playoffs and it was up against the cap. Teams rest players all the time. Florida did it in the final few weeks as well. Of course having both Kucherov and Steven Stamkos on the shelf allowed the Lightning to spend money it didn’t really have at the trade deadline. That helped.

But in a full 82-game season, you’re not going to see a team put a player like that on the shelf because you need a player like that to play. Sure, some players will get stashed on LTIR — but they have for years.

If Bob was to decide to go to the KHL would there be a cap hit (buyout) to the Panthers or similar to Ilya Kovalchuk leaving the Devils it comes off the books? — @1panthers

There could be some kind of recapture penalty if something like that were to happen but I do not see Bobrovsky deciding to leave for the KHL. He wants to play at the highest level and that is in the NHL. He wants things to work out in Florida.

The number two most important question of the Florida Panther offseason — No. 1 being the Barkov extension — WHAT TO DO ABOUT YANDLE? Obviously he is a major burden on the salary cap not commiserate with his value on the ice and nothing happens to Yandle that he doesn’t want to happen, so how do they resolve this situation? — lucarel

Well, aside from a buyout, the player holds the cards in this situation because of the way the team’s previous administration (I am not talking about Dale Tallon, either) structured the contract.

Yandle asked for a no-movement clause, asked for a big signing bonus in the final year and the team gave it to him. Good for him. He got what he asked for. That’s awesome. We all should be so lucky. But I think something will be worked out in the end where it benefits both sides. He does not want to be sitting on the bench in Florida and, after what happened in the playoffs, there could be a few of those days to come. We shall see.

‘Ironman’ Keith Yandle plays in 1000th game with Panthers on Sunday

Looking at possible UFAs, would the Panthers have interest in Brandon Saad? He has history with both Chicago and CBJ, so Zito and Q should know the player. (Not sure if that means they would be interested, or if it means they know to stay away). I don’t see him getting anywhere near his prior contract AAV. Similar to Bennett, he has had a good points per game average come playoff time. — Dale Huber

No, I do not think he is going to get the kind of contract that he had based on his production but I do think the Panthers would have some interest. He does a lot of good things, drives possession and makes his linemates, for the most part, better. He’s only 28 so he has a lot of hockey left in him. The Panthers lost out on Panarin two years ago. Maybe they get the guy Columbus traded to Chicago for him?

Georger – Please tell us again whythe Panthers are not likely to buy our the Yandle contract. MO if they do not and then need to protect him in the draft, they will probably lose a player who can acturally help them win. — Bob E.

Bobe — I don’t know that the Panthers are not buying out Yandle’s contract but we could know if they are as early as this afternoon. It’s just a tough price to pay to have someone walk away.

Because he has $3 million of signing bonus to be paid out in the final year of that contract, Yandle’s cap hit in 2022-23 will be $5.4 million. You would save about $4 million of cap hit this season and, yes, that $5.4 million next season is less than his cap hit. The team would save around $2.5 million in real money so, who knows.

Hey George, do you think either Keith Yandle or Sergei Bobrovsky will waive their NMCs for the purpose of the expansion draft to allow us to protect Forsling and Driedger? Also, if you had to make a bet, which Panthers are most likely done with the team? — Terence Graham

Hey Terence, I think Yandle may waive it (we will know later this month) but I don’t think they would even ask Bobrovsky to. You cannot protect Driedger anyway — he is a free agent. If you sign him, you would have to protect him.

There really doesn’t seem to be any reason to have Bobrovsky waive his NMC for Seattle unless they have agreed to take on his contract (or part of it) and he is hip to the idea of playing in the Pacific Northwest.

Hey George, have you heard anything about if the reverse retros are here to stay or if the Panthers are working on their own third jersey? Also congrats on working on this site for a year, I can’t wait for all the off-season content! — Jordan Moses

Hey Jordan, thanks for all the kind words! Glad to have you on board. Unfortunately, the Reverse Retros were a last season deal. I think the Panthers should think about that look as an alternate and I am sure they are looking at how the sales went to see if that’s something they want to do.

I would not be surprised to see the NHL come around with a second batch of RR looks in the near future based off how popular this round was league-wide. That gives Detroit time to get one that doesn’t look like a practice jersey.

Here is when the Florida Panthers will wear their ‘Reverse Retro’ threads

What young D men do you think have a legit shot at making the club this coming season, if any? — @BGNLordHelmut

I think a couple young defensemen could make the team this year. Training camp is going to be big for a couple of them.

First, you have Chase Priskie who is now in his third pro season. Of course there is Matt Kiersted who got a lot of good NHL experience after signing as a collegiate free agent. Then you have Max Gildon who is turning into a nice player. I wouldn’t say a little player, either, since he is 6-foot-3. Vladislav Kolyachonok could also make a push but he is probably too young just yet. I don’t know what the plans are right now for free agent Brady Keeper.

Hey George, love your work as always. Is there any hint of wanting to bring in a guy like Kessel as another PP threat and 3rd line (or 2nd) winger? He would be affordable and only has 1 year left. — ssirin

Hey ssirin, thank you very much. There was some talk a few weeks ago that the Panthers were one of the teams kicking the tires on Phil Kessel and I agree with you; he would give you some scoring both on the power play and 5-on-5.

Obviously when Arizona comes up, you think maybe trade Yandle there since he did enjoy his time with the Coyotes and perhaps where there is smoke there is fire on this one.

GR, how many “Hockey Now” sites are there? Has there been any thought to having a league wide subscription plan? — Dale Huber

DH, there are 10 sites under the Hockey Now umbrella and we are expected to add more before this coming season starts. We just expanded into Washington and Detroit so stay tuned for what’s next. I know having an all-access pass for the sites had been talked about.

Any chance on Zito offer sheeting someone? — Denim Forseth

You ever been to a place called ‘Sheetz?’ It’s a Wawa type place, mostly in western Pennsylvania but I have seen them in Ohio and North Carolina. Good place to stop on the road. Pretty good coffee. Anyway, the way you wrote this got me thinking about a run to Sheetz only there isn’t one near me. Maybe I will hit up Wawa.

Back to the question: I have asked Bill this and he gives the standard GM answer that he will work within the NHL rules to make his team the best it can be. That would mean, at least theoretically, he would be open to signing another team’s RFA and then making the other team match the deal.

Of course, it has to be the right player in the right situation, correct?

What’s the plan for Ryan Bednard knowing he’s logjammed behind Bob and Knight? — @BGNLordHelmut

Bobby Knight? Let me tell you, I like Ryan Bednard. I think he’s not only a great person but he is a pretty good goalie. He has succeeded just about everywhere he has been.

It’s like he’s quiet good because you may be the first person to ever ask me about him. I think he’s going to make it to the NHL eventually. Maybe not here but with someone. Bednard is only 24 so maybe he battles Montembeault in Charlotte next year.

Where do you see Anton Lundell slotting in next season? 2C or 3C? — Alan

Don’t forget, Sasha Barkov started out on the Florida Panthers fourth line on what was a pretty bad team in 2013. I think it is easy to say where Lundell could be — and it’s probably 3C — but how he looks when he gets to camp will decide it. He should be with the Panthers for a long time so he may play all over the place for a bit.

I now live in Massachusetts and hunger for any Panther news I can get. I will be renewing shortly so keep the Panthers news coming. My question is do you think the Panthers should go after Patric Laine? The CBJ gave up a lot to get him and would like a decent return, would they even want to send him to Panthers? How much would they have to give up? A prospect like Denisenko? Plus a pick? Or more? If you’re the GM George do you even want him? Nice easy question? — fan4pan

I now live in South Florida and will try to feed that hunger as much as I can. The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.

None of these questions are easy and this one is no exception. Yeah, the Panthers would be very interested in Patrik Laine but the cost to get him out of Columbus plus what it may cost to make sure he sticks around here could be a bit on the high side. But you need talent on your team and man this kid has some talent. Plus there is the Barkov affect as well.

So, as simply as I can put it: Yeah, the Panthers have interest but there are a lot of moving parts to this one. If the Jackets don’t sign him long-term — or trade him to a place that does — I think this is a conversation we could be having next summer.

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