02-26-2009, 03:58 PM
I'll come play in this forum for a change. Should help Crosby out quite a bit...
Penguins send Whitney to DucksComment Email Print Share By Pierre LeBrun
Archive The Pittsburgh Penguins added a quality forward to their lineup Thursday when they acquired Chris Kunitz and 20-year-old prospect Eric Tangradi from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney.
Penguins fans have been clamoring for GM Ray Shero to get a winger to play with Crosby. Mission accomplished, although Shero downplayed the fact it was specifically a player acquired to play with No. 87.
"He's a top six-forward, wherever the coach wants to play him, he'll play him," Shero told ESPN.com. "Kunitz is going to be a good player for us. I love the way he plays. He's got character, leadership, he'll play a little bigger role here than I think he did recently [in Anaheim].
"I've watched him forever and [Penguins coach] Dan Bylsma coached him [in the AHL] and played with him," added Shero. "He's a guy that can play with good players. He's got the speed, the hockey sense, the hands, we really like him."
The Penguins are currently on the outside looking in for a playoff spot with 66 points, two less than eighth-place Florida and Buffalo and one point behind Carolina. The key to the deal for Shero was that regardless of what happened this season, Kunitz is not a rental player since he has three more years on his deal.
"Yes that's very important," said Shero. "We looked around and looked around but we don't need rental guys. If I'm making a deal for Whitney, who has four more years on his deal, I need a guy in return who is signed. Kunitz has three more years which fits into where we are going. It's at the right price, too. We can't afford a $6 million or $7 million guy under our cap."
Kunitz, 29, will earn $3.6 million next season, $3.8 million in 2010-11 and $4 million in 2011-12. He won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.
Tangradi, a Philadelphia native, is a highly-touted prospect who has 87 points (38 goals, 49 assists) in 52 games with the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls this season. Anaheim drafted him 42nd overall in 2007.
"I wasn't going to do the deal straight up, I think there's too much value in a defenseman signed for four more years, so I needed something else and Tangradi is a guy we really liked," said Shero. "He's very raw, he's got a ways to grow, he's a big kid with talent."
The Penguins had depth on the blue line and could afford to lose a good player like Whitney. They also had offers for Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski but decided to move Whitney.
Whitney, 26, has four more years on a new deal that pays him $3.5 million in 2009-10, $4.5 million in 2010-11, $5 million in 2011-12 and $5.5 million in 2012-13.
For the Ducks, meanwhile, it sets up an interesting situation with regard to either star defensemen Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer, as the team has been contemplating moving one of them. Pronger has another year left on his deal, while Niedermayer is an unrestricted free agent July 1 but hasn't decided whether he's playing again next season.
Ducks GM Bob Murray may move one of them by Wednesday's trade deadline, or he could wait until the NHL entry draft and include more bidders on Pronger. That's a decision that has yet to be made.
Either way, Murray has protected himself on the blue line in case he trades Pronger and Niedermayer retires.
02-26-2009, 08:21 PM
I like that Bylsma has a background with Kunitz. I think Goligoski was playing as good if not better in Whitney's absence than Whitney has been playing since he came back from injury anyway. With offense defensemen like Gonchar, Letang, and Goligoski in the organization, plus Orpik, Scuderi, Gill, Eaton (and Boucher when he returns from injury), they could afford to lose a defenseman in order to gain a much-needed top 6 forward. The Tangradi kid seems like an interesting prospect too. A big kid that is second in the OHL (only two points behind man-child John Tavares is pretty impressive). I'll look forward to seeing him in Wilkes-Barre next season, and hopefully in Pittsburgh shortly thereafter.
Some additional analysis from ESPN.com's Scott Burnside:
Kunitz no Hossa, but he still helps Pens
By Scott Burnside
And so, the dominos of this trade deadline season are starting to tumble.
Desperate to make the playoffs and, thus, find a winger to produce some chemistry playing with either captain Sidney Crosby or NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday acquired Chris Kunitz from the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Ryan Whitney.
The Penguins also acquired 20-year-old prospect Eric Tangradi from the Ducks. The Philadelphia native is having a strong year playing major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League.
The move will have a ripple effect around the NHL as teams jockey for position heading into Wednesday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
In Anaheim, the Whitney acquisition doesn't necessarily mean the Ducks, one of four teams tied with 65 points sitting between seventh and 10th place in the Western Conference, are waving the white flag on the season. Although they're technically in 10th because they have played more games, the Ducks are still very much in the hunt for a postseason berth, and acquiring Whitney will do nothing to impede that progress.
The Boston native, who turned 26 last week, has played in just 28 games this season after offseason foot surgery. He is big (6-foot-4, 219 pounds), handles the puck well and isn't afraid of physical play. In short, he's a keeper who is locked in for the next four years between $3.5 million and $5.5 million annually.
While Whitney is able to contribute now, his presence also allows Anaheim GM Bob Murray flexibility in dealing with his two big defensemen, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.
There is a significant market for both defensemen, although Murray still doesn't know whether Niedermayer, a potential unrestricted free agent in July, plans to return next season or retire. Regardless, Whitney gives Murray security in case he decides to move Pronger, who has one more year left on his contract at $6.25 million, and Niedermayer retires.
Thursday's deal suggests the moving of either Pronger or Niedermayer, or possibly both, before July 1 is a given. With Whitney in the fold, Murray can turn his attention to making the best deal between now and Wednesday, if that's his preference, as the Ducks try to restock their farm system and cut payroll for 2009-10 and beyond.
As for the Penguins, the woes of last season's Stanley Cup finalists have been well-documented. Dramatic change in personnel, including the departure of last year's top-notch deadline acquisition Marian Hossa, has left the team wanting offensively and lacking in team chemistry. GM Ray Shero fired coach Michel Therrien on Feb. 15 and replaced him with AHL coach Dan Bylsma. The Pens continue to wobble two points beneath the playoff line in the Eastern Conference, sitting 10th after squeaking by the lowly New York Islanders 1-0 on Wednesday night, a game in which Crosby (sore groin) did not play.
Whitney, meanwhile, missed the game to be with his mother, Sue, in Boston; she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required surgery. The operation to remove the tumor was successful, Whitney told ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon as he made his way to TD Banknorth Garden, where his new team was set to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.
"She's doing great now," Whitney said. "There's been a little craziness [over the past 24 hours or so]. Obviously, I was a little shocked [about the trade]."
Whitney, who was drafted by the Penguins, has never played for another NHL team. It wasn't immediately clear whether he would be in the Ducks' lineup Thursday night, but he said he had talked to assistant GM David McNab and was flattered the team had traded a top player and a prospect to acquire him.
"I'm a little nervous right now," Whitney acknowledged. "But, at the same time, I'm really excited."
Murray said he has been a fan of Whitney's for a long time.
"He sees the ice well. He jumps into the play well," Murray told ESPN.com shortly before the Ducks and Bruins squared off in Boston on Thursday night.
The fact Whitney is only 26 and has experience playing in the Stanley Cup finals are added bonuses for a Ducks team looking to get back to Cup contention in a hurry.
"He's been a winner. He's been on teams that get places," Murray said. "He hasn't even hit his prime yet."
Murray acknowledged it was hard to give up a piece of the Ducks' Cup-winning team in Kunitz, whom he called a "warrior."
"But to get a young defenseman like that, you've got to give. It's a good deal for both teams," Murray said.
As for the notion that Whitney's acquisition will speed the exit of either Scott Niedermayer or Chris Pronger or both, Murray was noncommittal.
"People are going to speculate no matter what we do," he said. "There are a lot of feelers out there on members of our team."
Whitney does give the Ducks some security on the blue line moving forward, but Murray said that wasn't the genesis of the deal and insisted he would be "perfectly happy" to finish out the season with the Ducks' current defensive lineup.
Still, he said, "Anything we can do to make the organization better, we're going to do that."
As for Kunitz, he is not Hossa. But given Kunitz's dogged determination and puck smarts (he has 16 goals and 35 points and is a plus-9 in 62 games for the Ducks this season), he should blend in seamlessly with a young Penguins team that ranks 24th on the power play.
Kunitz is an undrafted collegian who played four years at Ferris State. Over the past two seasons, he had 21 and 25 goals; last season, he had six game-winners. The 29-year-old was also in the lineup when the Ducks went to the 2006 Western Conference finals and won the Stanley Cup in 2007, so he'll help buoy the Pens' playoff experience if they can secure a berth.
Contractually, Kunitz is locked up for the next three years at numbers ($3.6 million, $3.8 million and $4 million) that will fit in nicely with the core of young players Shero already has under contract for the next few years.
Kunitz's numbers are slightly lower than the long-term deal Whitney signed with the Pens prior to this season. Whitney was also more expendable than, say, center Jordan Staal, because the Penguins have a glut of defensemen who are NHL-ready.
If the Penguins do make the playoffs, Shero will have pulled off deadline magic two years in a row. If they don't, Shero still has a useful player going forward.
Beyond the impact for the two teams involved, the deal may prompt real movement in a landscape already rife with rumors about potential deals.
First, Thursday's deal should effectively kill rumors that top wingers like Dany Heatley, Milan Hejduk and Alexander Frolov (and anyone else you care to mention) are headed to Pittsburgh.
Second, teams that may be in the market for a top defender will likely increase their attention on the Ducks now that Murray has laid the foundation for his blue line moving forward and may be more open to offers for either Niedermayer or Pronger.
The Philadelphia Flyers, for instance, made a couple of roster moves Thursday to free up cap room to ostensibly bring back forward Daniel Briere from injury, waiving forward Glen Metropolit and defenseman Ossi Vaananen. It's believed the Flyers would like to add a big blue-line piece before March 4 and now GM Paul Holmgren may have more options.
Interestingly, if at least Pronger or Niedermayer is in play and Florida GM Jacques Martin continues to field calls for blue-chip defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, it's possible three Canadian Olympic defensemen could be on the move in less than a week, changing the playoff landscape dramatically.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
And here is the information posted on the Pens' website:
Penguins Pick Up Speedy, Gritty Winger Also Add Top Prospect to Talent Pool
Feb 26, 2009, 1:54 PM EST
Penguins general manager Ray Shero pulled the trigger on a trade Thursday afternoon, sending defenseman Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi.
"I think with the emergence of Kris Letang, and of course with Gonchar coming back and with Alex Goligoski and his development this year, it gave us one extra defenseman in terms of trying to get a top six forward, which I think we have with Chis Kunitz," Shero said. "Also with Eric, he is a guy our scouts just really liked, especially his draft year, and heís having a great year in Belleville this year."
Kunitz, 29, has 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) and 55 penalty minutes in 62 games with Anaheim this season. The left winger, who will be in the lineup for the Penguins Friday at Chicago, ranks fifth on the Ducks with 16 goals and leads the team with 148 hits.
"With Chris Kunitz coming here, heís got 148 hits and heís a top-six guy," said interim head coach Dan Bylsma, who knows Kunitz from his time in Anaheim. "He drives to the net and creates space for people. Heís a pretty speedy guy up front. Immediately thatís what you can expect from Chris Kunitz. Iíve played with him and coached him. Thatís what he does. Heís straight forward. He goes and gets pucks. He drives to the net. Heís around the net a lot so youíll find him there, getting goals and creating space for people."
The 6-1,198-pound Kunitz posted career highs with 25 goals and 60 points in 81 games in 2006-07, when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. In 2007-08, he led Anaheim with six game-winning goals and ranked third on the team in goals (21), assists (29) and points (50).
I think Kunitz is going to jump right in and be a top six guy for us. So Kunitz is going to help us right away in our top six and like I said, I like the way he plays the game. Heís been a leader and heíll jump right into our group here and help out. He plays a physical brand of hockey and thatís what weíre looking to add to our lineup and he has the character that Iím looking for as well. - Ray Shero"I think Kunitz is going to jump right in and be a top six guy for us," Shero said. "So I think itís a good message that here is a guy thatís not only here for this year but moving forward. So Kunitz is going to help us right away in our top six and like I said, I like the way he plays the game. Heís been a leader and heíll jump right into our group here and help out. And then of course with the bigger picture in mind, heís signed moving forward for an additional three years and thatís important. He plays a physical brand of hockey and thatís what weíre looking to add to our lineup and he has the character that Iím looking for as well."
Tangradi, 20, is in his third season with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He ranks second in the OHL with 87 points (38 goals, 49 assists), two behind John Tavares (89), who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Tangradi also ranks fourth in the league with 38 goals in 52 games this season.
The 6-4, 221-pound forward has played 173 games in the OHL, collecting 167 points (67 goals, 100 assists) and 130 penalty minutes. He is the Bulls captain and was originally drafted by Anaheim in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2007 Entry Draft. The native of Philadelphia represented Team USA at the 2009 World Junior Championships in Ottawa.
"Heíll be ready to turn pro next year," Shero said. "Heís a big left winger, 6-4, and heís the type of prospect we like to add to our group moving forward. Heís a kid who who played in the World Juniors for the American team ... Heís in the top scorers of the OHL but heís a guy I would say that heís raw, really raw. But heís got big time physical ability, 6-foot-4, he has real good hands and hockey sense. To add that type of player to our prospect pool I think is very important for us and a big part of the deal."
But to get something, you have to give something away. Whitney played 253 career games with the Penguins from 2005-09, recording 34 goals and 116 assists for 150 points. He was the Penguins first-round draft pick (fifth overall) in 2002 and has spent all his professional career with the Penguins organization.
"Itís hard," Shero said. "Youíre around these kids for almost three years now and I really got to know Ryan and like him and his family. So that makes it difficult but at the end of the day my responsibility is to the hockey team and making this the best team I can moving forward. Ryanís done a good job here with this group and Iím sure heíll continue his career and do a really good job for Anaheim as well. Hopefully itís going to be good for both teams."
"I was traded last year at the deadline," forward Matt Cooke said. "Sometimes even as hard as it is, it can be healthy for both sides. Itís a situation that we have no control over. Not many guys are getting no trade clauses anymore. It can happen at any time."
He drives to the net and creates space for people. Heís a pretty speedy guy up front. Immediately thatís what you can expect from Chris Kunitz. Heís straight forward. He goes and gets pucks. He drives to the net. Heís around the net a lot so youíll find him there, getting goals and creating space for people. - Dan Bylsma
"(Whitney) was a big part of our team," Bylsma said. "When he leaves you miss a friend, you might be missing a roommate, you might be missing a defensive partner. Youíre getting into a situation with new people coming in. Thereís always an adjustment. We are losing a good guy, good teammate, good person and a good player. Thereís an adjustment but this isnít the first time in professional hockey that this has happened. Itís probably happened for this team before in the past. We wish Ryan well and weíll get to know Chris Kunitz here in a hurry."
Kunitz will meet the team in Chicago. He'll be introduced to his new teammates and spend some time with the coaching staff. Kunitz will suit up for the Penguins Friday night against the Blackhawks and Bylsma already has a good idea of what he'll get from the newest Penguin.
"I think I know real well what weíre going to see on the ice and what to expect from him," Bylsma said. "When you know a playerís foundation and you know what theyíre going to bring then you can immediately point him in the right direction, hold them accountable and tell them this is what weíre going to expect and demand from you. Heís going to come in and play a gritty game.
"He is around the net creating chances for himself but also chances for other people coming in behind him to pick up rebounds. Heís in on the forecheck, hunting down pucks, laying the body and creating that turnover situation for offensive zone time to start. Thatís a good combination for a guy who likes to have the puck on his stick and likes to make plays. Heís opening it up for the people around him. Heíll go to the net. In the NHL, you donít score many goals if you donít go to the blue paint. You will see Chris Kunitz in the blue paint."
03-17-2009, 12:15 PM
This Kunitz deal is looking good so far.
And this is not even taking into account Eric Tangradi, the 6'4" 221 lbs. LW who has scored 38 goals and 50 assists in 55 games on his junior team this season. I really look forward to seeing this kid in Wilkes-Barre next season, and hopefully in Pittsburgh shortly thereafter.
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