We're one-quarter of the way through the 2013 Phoenix Coyotes season and looking at the same question from last season: should the Coyotes look to trade defenseman Keith Yandle?
It's really a sticky situation, but for right now the Coyotes would be better off retaining Yandle's services for the remainder of the 2013.
While Yandle has his struggles, it's impossible to deny his offensive potency. He's one of the fastest D-men in the league and draws attention whenever he's on the ice. He averages just under 30 points per season and has plenty of steam in his legs to stay on the ice for power plays.
In the Coyotes' defense-first system, Yandle has noticeably improved. A few seasons ago, it was not unusual to see him take a bad line or overcommit to a play, effectively leading to an odd-man rush for the opponent. Fast forward to this season, and those mistakes are rare. He seems to have taken the teachings of head coach Dave Tippett to heart and knows his role: defend, then score. Not the other way around.
A majority of the NHL would give up a lot for a defenseman like Yandle. Most teams rely on a certain forward to establish a play in the offensive zone. A combination of that same player and Yandle would be enough to make the everyday GM drool. Coyotes fans saw this last season when Yandle was combined on the power play with Ray Whitney.
Don't get me wrong, Yandle hasn't had an amazing season. He hasn't even had a decent season. The Coyotes assistant captain has made noticeable mental errors on the puck that have resulted in turnovers, most of which are extremely dangerous given Yandle's position on the point. He's also taken some frankly stupid penalties -- like several unsportsmanlike conduct calls -- when his team needs his leadership on the ice.
Would the Coyotes be tempted to trade Yandle? At some point in the future, maybe. But in the lockout-shortened season, the trade value is low. A player of Yandle's caliber would require a large return of at least a top-six forward and a pick or prospect. A decent trade to be certain, but the lockout has increased the injury potential to a lot of players. Yandle rarely misses a game and it would be very unlike general manager Don Maloney to take a risk on a guy who may miss ice time (Matthew Lombardi aside).
When it comes down to it, the Coyotes could consider a trade for Yandle at a later date, but why trade now when return could be poor and, at 26, Yandle still has plenty of time to grow? There's something said for the man who can play a patient waiting game with his players and there are few better than Don Maloney.
Personally, I don't feel that a string of bad play is enough to trade a player. Frustrating? Yes. Infuriating? At times. Reason for a trade? Hardly.
The rumor mill is going to pick up as we approach the April 3 trade deadline, but I don't foresee Yandle going anywhere. Embrace him, Coyotes fans. That assistant captain is going to be around a while, because bad play alone won't lead to Yandle's exit.