Monthly Archives: February, 2009

Falling VORG*: Pens Trade Whitney

* Value Over Replacement Goligoski

“Personal reasons,” eh? Maybe I should have checked the Bruins schedule last night. (Update: ESPN’s Scott Burnside is reporting that Whitney’s mother had successful surgery to remove a brain tumor yesterday. The whole “family in Boston/Anaheim at Boston” thing turned out to be a coincidence, and one that’s working out well for the Whitney family in the end.)

The Pens have traded defenseman Ryan Whitney, his significant cap hit, and his deteriorating hands to the Anaheim Ducks for left wing Chris Kunitz and junior left wing Eric Tangradi.

I say “deteriorating hands” because Whitney’s play since returning from foot surgery has been typified by the sudden inability to make or receive a pass. I was never part of the crowd screaming for Whitney to hit somebody. Expecting a defenseman valued for his positional play and offensive skills to suddenly become Scott Stevens makes as much sense as expecting him to become a chipped ham sandwich. But puck-handling was one of Whit’s best assets, and he hasn’t been doing that well at all this year. He was whiffing on outlet passes. On the power play, he’d send dangerously vague floaters along the blue line to Gonchar. He might as well have been using a length of rebar for a stick, the way received passes would clank three feet away.

The final straw for Whitney was the emergence of Alex Goligoski this year. Both players are cut from the same cloth, but Goligoski is younger, cheaper, and (at least this year) more reliable. The only thing he was missing was experience and playing time, especially after Gonchar returned from his shoulder injury, so he’s back in Wilkes-Barre, a victim of the numbers game.

In return, we’re getting another attempt to solve the riddle of Sidney Crosby’s Scoring Winger, at least indirectly. Kunitz is a consistent 20-goal guy, but I’m not sure if he’d fit with Sid right off the bat. If nothing else, he’ll give Dan Bylsma a little more flexibility when line-building.

Tangradi was Anaheim’s 2nd round pick in 2007, and is in his second year of juniors with Belleville. A 6’4″ 20 year old from Philly(!), he’s posting strong numbers in a power forward role this year.

In salary cap terms, Ray Shero has opened up a little bit of space, but not much. Whitney’s cap value is around $4m, and Kunitz’s is $3.75m.

With less than a week to go before the deadline, this could be the move that sets up the move, if the Penguins are looking to be buyers. Here’s the playoff situation as it stands today:

  • The Pens are 2 points out of 8th in the East.
  • Buffalo has lost Ryan Miller indefinitely to a high ankle sprain, and they have no confidence in backup Patrick Lalime.
  • Nobody knows what to make of the Canadiens’ circus.
  • John Tortorella still has to stop the free-fall of the Rangers.
  • Florida has 2 games in hand, but 3 of their 4 games with the Pens are after the trade deadline.
  • Carolina is the forgotten contender, lurking in the shadows, with one more game against the Pens, in Raleigh in early April.

If I’m Ray Shero, I like my chances for the playoffs, but I also don’t think there’s a season-turning blockbuster deal out there. I’m anticipating some trades that keep the team competitive this year, while also freeing up cap space for the free agent market.

The Hockey Gods are petty and cruel, and plague mankind with suffering.

Chris Osgood shutting out the Penguins and proving his critics wrong? Marian Hossa held to an assist on a Valtteri Filppula goal? That I could live with.

Instead, it’s Ty Conklin getting the shutout, and Hossa scoring a back-breaking goal.

That’s Fate twisting the knife.