Florida Panthers

Keith Yandle ready to get down to work with Florida Panthers

Keith Yandle is ready to begin his first season with the Florida Panthers

New Florida defenseman Keith Yandle talks about his decision to sign a seven-year deal and join the Panthers in June.
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New Florida defenseman Keith Yandle talks about his decision to sign a seven-year deal and join the Panthers in June.

Keith Yandle is getting a head start on his new life in South Florida.

Not only did Yandle find digs near Fort Lauderdale beach for his family, but his 5-year-old is enrolled and ready to start school next week.

On the professional side of things, Yandle is back on the ice readying for a new start with the Florida Panthers.

Yandle is one of a handful of NHL players working out with former Florida captain Olli Jokinen at the South Florida Hockey Academy in Pompano Beach, joining the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Steven Kampfer.

"There’s a lot of excitement,’’ Yandle told reporters at Glacier Ice and Snow Arena on Thursday morning. "I can’t wait to meet everyone and get things started. Guys are coming in early so you get to meet guys before training camp even starts. We’ll go out to lunch and dinner; it’s a lot of fun.’’

The Panthers traded a sixth-round pick to the Rangers for the rights to the pending free agent prior to the NHL draft before signing him to a seven-year deal worth $44.5-million.

Yandle said the Panthers being so aggressive, and making such a substantial financial package, helped him make his decision before hitting the free agent market.

"I think the whole situation with them showing interest in me, trading for me and giving me the chance to sign before July 1 showed me commitment and it went a long way," Yandle said. "Seeing how great the team is and the coaching staff is, it was a no-brainer for me."

The Panthers will have a revamped defense this season with Gudbranson traded to Vancouver and Kulikov sent to Buffalo in exchange for defenseman Mark Pysyk.

Yandle and Pysyk will join Jason Demers – signed on Day 2 of free agency – as well as rookies Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen on what should be a quicker moving unit.

"We felt these were three guys that we wanted to go after aggressively so they could complement the pieces we had up front," general manager Tom Rowe said earlier this summer.

Joining rising superstar Aaron Ekblad – whom the Panthers signed to an eight-year deal worth $60-million days after Yandle signed on in Florida – was also a big factor in his decision to come south.

"There’s a great team here and you hear how great the guys are,’’ Yandle said. "Playing against them, you know how good the players are here.’’