2021 NHL free agents: Why Keith Yandle makes sense for Bruins

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Should B's pursue Yandle? Yes, but only for a specific role originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Keith Yandle has been involved in NHL trade rumors and speculation involving the Boston Bruins so many times over the last decade.

Will this finally be the year the Milton, Mass., native joins his hometown team?

The Florida Panthers announced Thursday they bought out the remaining two years of Yandle's contract. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

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The Bruins need more depth on their blue line, but is Yandle a good fit at 34 years old?

Yes, but only in the right role.

Yandle has always been a good puck-moving defenseman with offensive skill. He's also effective on the power play. He's never been a shutdown defenseman, and he doesn't excel when a lot of his shifts start in the defensive zone or he has to play a lot of minutes against the opposing team's top-six forwards.

A third-pairing role where he primarily plays in offensive situations against favorable matchups is the ideal scenario for Yandle at this stage of his career. The Panthers, as the tweet below explains, put him into this role last season and saw good results:

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The Panthers had a plus-158 edge in shot attempts, a plus-82 advantage in shots on net and a plus-64 margin in scoring chances during Yandle's 5-on-5 minutes last season, per Natural Stat Trick. However, he had 193 offensive zone starts compared to just 39 defensive zone starts, further illustrating the type of role he needs to play to be most effective.

The Bruins are desperate for scoring from the blue line, though. Charlie McAvoy led all Bruins defensemen with 30 points last season. Matt Grzelcyk tallied 20 points. No other B's blueliner was in double digits. Replacing Torey Krug's scoring was a harder task than anticipated. 

Yandle, for all of his flaws, still puts up points. He has averaged 46.3 points over the last six seasons.

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Another thing the Bruins need on the back end is durability. The Bruins have suffered so many injuries to defensemen in recent seasons, especially in the playoffs. The 2021 playoffs were the latest example, as Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller and others missed games.

Yandle is one of the most durable players in league history. His active streak of 922 consecutive games played is the second-longest behind Doug Jarvis' career record of 964.

The Bruins have better options than Yandle in their search for blue line help. For example, Ryan Suter is a legit top-four defenseman and a better all-around player. He will be a UFA after being bought out by the Minnesota Wild earlier this week.

However, if Yandle is willing to accept a cheap, one-year deal to join the Bruins in a third-pairing role with some power-play time, the team should strongly consider it. He's not going to replace Kevan Miller's toughness or penalty killing, but Yandle could provide the Bruins with some much-needed offensive production and plenty of experience.