As per TSN.ca, the Anaheim Ducks have sent forward Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney. First off, let’s look at the respective cap hits of the players traded:
Whitney: 4M per season through 2012-13, pending UFA
Kunitz: 3.725M per season through 2011-12, pending UFA
Eric Tangradi was signed to a three year entry-level contract in December which hasn’t come into effect yet; if anybody knows the terms of the contract please chime in below (with link) and I’ll include it up here.
Ryan Whitney belongs to a class of player that has always been an expensive acquisition for any team: offensive defensemen. Here are his statistics from the past couple of seasons:
- 2008-09: 28GP – 2G – 11A – 13PTS, -15
- 2007-08: 76GP – 12G – 28A – 40PTS, -2
- 2006-07: 81GP – 14G – 45A – 59PTS, +9
- 2005-06: 68GP – 6G – 32A – 38PTS, -7
Just to refine the picture a little bit, here are Whitney’s BehindtheNet even-strength rankings (among Penguins defensemen with more than 20GP) for the past few seasons:
- 2008-09: QC-5th, QT-1st, Corsi/60-8th, PTS/60 – 0.95 (2nd)
- 2007-08: QC-5th, QT-4th, Corsi/60-8th, PTS/60 – 0.88 (2nd)
- 2006-07: QC-6th, QT-2nd
Looking at those stats, it seems very apparent that Whitney has been sheltered at even-strength, ranking either 5th or 6th in Quality of Competition in each of the past three seasons. He’s posted some fairly impressive even-strength offensive numbers, but both his +/- and his Corsi number would seem to indicate a player that is a bit of a train-wreck in his own zone. Let’s just compare his +/- numbers with those of his team; obviously a weaker team would drag him down as well:
- 2008-09: 186GF/191GA (-5)
- 2007-08: 247GF/216GA (+31)
- 2006-07: 277GF/246GA (+31)
- 2005-06: 244GF/316GA (-72)
I think at this point it’s fair to say that Ryan Whitney is simply not that strong a player in his own end at even-strength; in other words, he isn’t exactly a replacement for a player like Scott Niedermayer or Chris Pronger five-on-five. Let’s also consider his power-play numbers from the past few seasons (and since BehindtheNet only has powerplay points production numbers going back to 2007-08, we’ll use NHL.com’s numbers):
- 2008-09: 6 PTS, 158:36 PPTOI, 2.27 PTS/60
- 2007-08: 22 PTS, 398:02 PPTOI, 3.32 PTS/60
- 2006-07: 33 PTS, 484:41 PPTOI, 4.09 PTS/60
- 2005-06: 16 PTS, 308:50 PPTOI, 3.11 PTS/60
Those numbers, while impressive, lag well behind the numbers posted by Sergei Gonchar. In 2006-07, Whitney’s best season, Gonchar managed 4.78 PTS/60 on the powerplay, while in 2007-08 Gonchar managed 6.28 PTS/60 on the powerplay. None of this is to say that Whitney isn’t a very good offensive option on the powerplay; just that he isn’t the difference maker on the back end in Pittsburgh. Gonchar’s a highly-talented and perpetually underrated player, and as talented as Ryan Whitney is he doesn’t come close to providing the presence of Gonchar. It also seems likely that Whitney’s points production would drop away from the potent Pittsburgh powerplay.
Whitney’s been a bit player on the Pittsburgh penalty-kill for some time, but he has been surprisingly effective in that role.
Chris Kunitz is an interesting player in his own right, a member of the supporting cast on the Ducks’ cup-winning team and a player who has spent a lot of time on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Here are his numbers for the past few seasons:
- 2008-09: 62GP – 16G – 19A – 35PTS, +9
- 2007-08: 82GP – 21G – 29A – 50PTS, +8
- 2006-07: 81GP – 25G – 35A – 60PTS, +23
Those numbers look very good initially (although his offensive totals are a little low considering his presumable linemates), but as with Whitney let’s try to refine the picture with some even-strength numbers from BehindtheNet:
- 2008-09: QC-6th, QT-1st, Corsi/60-3rd, Points/60 – 2.07 (5th)
- 2007-08: QC-5th, QT-4th, Corsi/60-3rd, Points/60 – 1.93 (4th)
- 2006-07: QC-7th, QT-2nd
It seems fairly apparent that Chris Kunitz is another player who, while not out-rightly sheltered, has had the benefit of playing mid-level competition with some excellent linemates. I’ve seen quite a few Anaheim games during his time with the team, so I know he hasn’t played exclusively with Getzlaf and Perry, but I’ve never seen a game where he wasn’t on a scoring line. Let’s take advantage of Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice tool and see how Kunitz has fared with and without Getzlaf and Perry on his line (#99 at the bottom is the combination of the three; Kunitz is 14, Perry 10 and Getzlaf 15):
With Getzlaf/Perry: 24GF, 15GA (+9); 608ASF/400ASA (Corsi +208)
Without Getzlaf/Perry: 11GF, 10GA (+1); 291ASF/279ASA (Corsi +12)
That’s a fairly significant difference, and I don’t think there’s an argument to be made that Chris Kunitz is the difference maker on that line. Granted, Getzlaf and Perry are excellent players, and Chris Kunitz is still in the black playing without them, but I think it’s fair to question how effective he would be with less talented linemates.
Not that we’ll find out in Pittsburgh; the Penguins need wingers to play with Crosby and Malkin so Chris Kunitz will almost certainly continue his streak as one of the luckiest above-average support players in the NHL. His cap hit is reasonable for what he brings to the table.
Eric Tangradi is the wild card in this trade. He was drafted by the Ducks in the second round of 2007 despite some very pedestrian regular-season numbers, and likely (at least in part) because he had some other exceptional numbers to his credit (6’4”, 221lbs). He plays a “rough and tumble” game (according to his Hockey’s Future bio) and has improved offensively since being drafted. Let’s take a look at his junior numbers:
- 2008-09: 52GP – 38G – 49A – 87PTS, +43
- 2007-08: 56GP – 24G – 36A – 60PTS, +10
- 2006-07: 65GP – 5G – 15A – 20PTS, +12
The +/- numbers on Tangradi are particularly interesting; let’s see how his team has done during that span:
- 2008-09: 233GF/157GA (+76)
- 2007-08: 280GF/175GA (+105)
- 2006-07: 260GF/227GA (+33)
The Belleville Bulls have been a strong team over the past three seasons, but even so Tangradi’s numbers stand out. His +43 this season easily leads all forwards (Bryan Cameron is second with +27) and is tied for the team lead with Canadiens prospect P.K. Subban. In 2006-07, Tangradi was one off the team lead of +13.
It’s also worth noting that Tangradi’s draft ranking in 2007 skyrocketed after his performance in the OHL playoffs; after recording only 20 points in 65 regular season games, Tangradi scored 8 goals and 17 points in 15 playoff games.
In short, Tangradi’s a blue-chip prospect who would seem to have all of the facets NHL GM’s covet: size, scoring ability, a physical edge, and the ability to turn it up in the playoffs. I’m sure the Ducks were loath to trade him.
I’d say that the Pittsburgh Penguins likely turn out to be the winners of this deal. They traded away a big young defenseman with offensive talent but some flaws to his game for a capable winger who can play a supporting role and a blue-chip prospect. As for the notion that this trade means that the Ducks are certain to send away one of Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer; I tend to agree with Bob McKenzie that this deal doesn’t make it a slam-dunk by any stretch – the Ducks likely won’t trade Pronger unless they know Niedermayer is returning for another season, and once they do know they won’t trade Pronger until the right deal comes their way.
As a side note, this deal should set the value on young offensive defensemen; if the Oilers do opt to trade a player like Tom Gilbert, the return should be a capable roster player and a first-rate prospect.