With golf tee times reserved just in case, the Pittsburgh Penguins made a move ideally to help the now and the later, trading defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim for forward Chris Kunitz and prospect forward Eric Tangradi.
Whitney, 26 and coming off major foot surgery, has been a major disappointment so far, but while I've been a Whitney detractor since before it was popular, I'm giving him a tad leeway on this season considering his health circumstances and the team's struggles, and how he was viewed as a savior once he returned. He almost immediately began playing 25 minutes a night, which seems a lot for a guy coming off that little foot thing that kept him out all season. (Sure, some of those minutes are on the power play, but that doesn't mean they're easy minutes. Have you seen the Penguins' power play? Putrid.)
When he's healthy, Whitney can be very effective. He had 59 points two years ago, struggled (due to the foot) to just 40 last year but was one of the better Pens defensemen in the finals. He had two goals and 13 points this season but was a minus-15.
My knowledge on Kunitz (6-1, 198) is a little limited since I don't watch the Ducks often, but it seems to me he's a Ryan Malone-type. A power forward who's good for 20-25 goals a season (he peaked at 25 two seasons ago, had 21 last year and 16 so far this year). He may throw the body around slightly more than Malone, and that right there should make him MVP, since hits are such a valuable statistic.
Kunitz, 29, is signed through 2012 with a cap hit of $3.725 million. Whitney has four years after this remaining on a contract paying him an average of $4 million.
I know less about Tangradi, though from what I've read, he is Anaheim's No. 2-rated prospect. He is hot on the heels of Saint Tavares for the OHL scoring lead, with 87 points, including 38 goals. He is another power forward with excellent size at 6-4, 221.
Bottom line: Kunitz will add much-needed grit to the Penguins, costing something the Penguins had an excess of (defensemen, more specifically offensive defensemen). Getting Tangradi as well seems to make this a win for Pittsburgh, which still has Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski available as "mobile defensemen" while shoring up the NHL club and adding a tremendous winger to the system, which has been severely lacking in goal scorers.
From Anaheim's end, does this mean Chris Pronger and/or Scott Niedermayer is on the move? The addition of Whitney adds a third skilled blueliner, and while Whit's cap hit will be less than $1 million this year (according to nhlnumbers.com), that number will shoot up next year.
The Ducks get a defenseman who despite being 6-4 and 220 doesn't play a very physical game, has been struggling in his own end since returning, hasn't mastered how to quarterback a power play yet but obviously has the signs to do so. If Niedermayer sticks around, maybe Whitney grows a bit under him. If Whitney progresses as everyone in Pittsburgh wanted/expected him to, Anaheim will get its younger version of Pronger/Niedermayer, though not as tough (Pronger) or as skilled (Niedermayer), but still a very quality defenseman who can score.
Now the question remains, will Pittsburgh make other moves? It still has Jordan Staal as a trade chip. Or will Ray Shero sit for a few days and analyze the Kunitz acquisition to see if that did the trick?
The trade deadline is seven days away (counting today).
(Semi-amusing update: Wednesday, Whitney was a healthy scratch for what was announced as "returning home to be with an ill family member." Which may be true. But Whitney is from Boston. Who plays in Boston Thursday night? You guessed it, Anaheim. Coincidence, or not?)