The Florida Panthers bought out the remainder of Keith Yandle’s contract on Thursday, giving the veteran defenseman a chance at a fresh start and providing the team some extra salary cap space.
Yandle was signed for two more seasons at a cap hit of $6.35 million. The buyout saves Florida $4 million against the cap next season, just under $1 million in 2022-23 and costs an extra $1.2 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25.
The 34-year-old holds the longest active ironman streak in the NHL at 922 consecutive regular-season games played — 42 short of Doug Jarvis' record. The Panthers made Yandle a healthy scratch for half of their first-round playoff series, but that does not affect his streak.
Yandle immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent. Like Minnesota's Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, he did not need to go on buyout waivers because Yandle had a no-movement clause in his contract.
He can sign with another team when free agency opens July 28.
“We would like to extend a sincere thank you to Keith for all that he’s contributed to the Florida Panthers organization and to the South Florida community over the past five seasons,” general manager Bill Zito said. “While a decision of this kind is never an easy one to make, we believe that this shift is necessary as we look towards the 2021-22 season and our club’s future.”
Buying out Yandle allows the Panthers to protect another player in the Seattle expansion draft. Protected lists are due Saturday.
The Boston native has skated in 1,032 regular-season and 58 playoff games for the Coyotes, Rangers and Panthers since making his NHL debut in 2006. Yandle joins Suter among the experienced left-handed-shooting defensemen available this summer.
Using part of the buyout savings, the Panthers re-signed 25-year-old defenseman Gustav Forsling to an $8 million, three-year contract. Zito said the Panthers are looking forward to watching Forsling continue to develop after setting career highs with five goals, 12 assists and 17 points in 43 games last season.
Florida also re-signed forward Anthony Duclair to a three-year contract.