The Ryan Whitney Trade: Fantastic Deal For The Pens Despite Non-Involvement Of Jeff Parker

Ryan WhitneyIn the 48 hours that followed the Penguins’ trade of Ryan Whitney to the Ducks, my general thoughts progressed from “Interesting…” to “Good Deal For Both Clubs” to “Great Deal For The Pens” to “Wait, Am I Just Subconsciously Wanting This To Be A Great Deal For The Pens?” to “No, This Is A GREAT Deal For The Pens.”

In Chris Kunitz, the Pens acquire a 25-goal man with net-crashing instincts and a physical streak for the exceedingly manageable cost of $3.6 to $4 million per year through the 2011-12 season. He’s instantly the Penguins’ most complete winger, he’s locked in at a reasonable rate for three more seasons, and he’s got a Cup ring, thus making the Pens’ obligatory “Players With Stanley Cup Victories” graphics during postseason broadcasts marginally less pathetic.

Perhaps more importantly to the deal, though, the Pens also acquired Eric Tangradi, a 6’4″ 220 pound winger. At a time when Ryan Malone is commanding a 7-year deal and Johan Franzen is months away from being crushed by giant cartoon sacks with dollar signs on them, Ray Shero likely realized his options for acquiring the power forward the Pens badly need are historically slim — Dustin Penner? Too pricey, too many question marks. Nathan Horton? Would have to give up too much, and not available during the season. So Shero took a flier on a 20-year-old 2nd round pick who happens to be second in the OHL in scoring to monstertalent John Tavares, and while OHL stats obviously don’t automatically translate to the pros and 20 is on the high end for the OHL age-wise, this dude isn’t Robert Dome — Tangradi is a legit NHL power forward prospect coming to a team that needs both power forwards and prospects and coming as a throw-in on a deal that already makes the Pens a better short-term team just with the Whitney-for-Kunitz swap.

As for Whitney, I’m not even that sad to see him go. He’s under a reasonable contract at a time when offensive defensemen are at an absolute premium, but he hasn’t merely underperformed to his potential, he’s been a liability for the Penguins, both defensively and offensively, for the last two seasons. In just 28 games with the Pens this year, Whitney was a MINUS FIFTEEN. Plus/Minus is an extremely flimsy statistic, but still, how is that even possible? Did Whitney spend a couple weeks on the Quebec Nordiques that I’m not aware of?

Commentators obligatorily refer to Whitney as a “good young defenseman,” but he’s now 26 — hardly past his prime, but Kris Letang is only 21 and Alex Goligoski still 23 — and while Whitney surely has a number of quality NHL seasons to come, he’s also a known quantity by now, he’s not going to suddenly blossom into a perennial Norris Candidate at 27 after sucking for two years when given every chance to succeed on an offensively-inclined club. And if he somehow does, well, I’ll chalk it up to the ol’ “change of scenery” cliche and won’t lose any sleep.

The PG’s Ron Cook counters with this head-scratching argument on Whitney’s behalf:

A significant portion of Penguins fandom figuratively danced in the streets after the trade was announced , so glad are they to see Whitney gone [Ed Note – I danced in the streets literally, not figuratively. Flew back to Pittsburgh, acquired an giant early-90s boombox and got jiggy up and down Ffith Avenue blasting “Dancing In The Streets” on a loop for several hours]. That bunch blames his awful play for the team’s lousy season. Talk about being shortsighted. Alleged stars Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury have been just as disappointing in their own way. So have lesser lights Max Talbot and Miroslav Satan.

One question – which angry Penguin fans were blaming Whitney for the poor season but NOT also criticizing Fleury, Staal and Satan? Does any living human actually hold the opinion that Cook is railing against? Satan is currently more vilified in Pittsburgh than his biblical namesake. Of course Whitney isn’t the reason the Pens are having a bad season, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t also played really, really badly, nagging injury or no. But way to invent a hypothetical inane mindset then point out why it’s inane!

Complex arguments aside, I’m about 99% sure that Shero just watched this occur, immediately speed-dialed the Ducks, and the rest is history.

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