Ray Whitney: Are Pens, Sens, Preds interested?
Editor's note: There's the March 3 trade deadline, and then there's the Olympic roster freeze that goes into effect on Feb. 12. Between now and Feb. 12, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun will look at 10 potential trade baits and which teams have a chance at landing some much-needed help.
Ray Whitney, Carolina HurricanesScott Burnside: Hello, Pierre. Welcome to our daily look at the trade landscape as we barrel along toward the start of the Olympic roster freeze on Feb. 12. The Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs have already rocked the NHL world with a couple of big deals this past weekend, and the New York Rangers may get into the act, as well. But let's talk today about a guy I know you have likened to this season's Bill Guerin: Ray Whitney, a savvy veteran who has a Cup ring and is a point-a-game player. He wouldn't be too big a hit in the wallet for the many teams that will be looking to acquire him from Carolina.
LeBrun: Yes, I think he's a terrific consolation prize for the suitors who lose out on Ilya Kovalchuk. But Whitney won't come cheap. Sure, his $3.55 million salary is not exorbitant, but Carolina is likely looking for a pick and/or prospect in return, which means inquiring clubs would be taking a sizeable cap hit without sending any salary the other way. For the Hurricanes, saving money isn't a bad thing since the medium-market club is not in the playoff hunt. So, for example, I think a team like the red-hot Ottawa Senators covets Whitney, but they can't fit his contract under the cap right now. Perhaps Whitney is a guy who doesn't move until closer to the March 3 trade deadline for that reason alone. We'll see.
Burnside: Agreed, the asking price for Whitney will likely be significantly higher than the third-round pick the Penguins sent to the Islanders on trade deadline day a year ago. Boston is in dire need of offense and has some high picks to move; you know Carolina GM Jim Rutherford would love to grab the Leafs' first-round pick that is now the property of the Bruins thanks to the Phil Kessel trade. That may seem like a lot for a rental player, but Whitney's value is going to be pretty high with teams like Los Angeles, the New York Rangers, Vancouver and others looking for offensive help and leadership.
LeBrun: Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told me unequivocally the Leafs' pick is not in play. So you can forget that. But Whitney would be a nice addition to a Bruins offense that ranks dead last in the NHL. The Kings would be interested only as a Plan B if they don't get Kovalchuk. Whitney is a power-play stud and can play either the point or the forward position on the unit, so he's versatile. The Penguins and Senators are among the worst-ranked power-play units in the league, so for that reason alone I believe both teams will inquire. The Devils have slipped to 20th in goals per game, and while it's impossible to ever predict what silence-is-golden GM Lou Lamoriello will do, I can't see him not at least kicking the tires on a Cup champion and offensive wizard like Whitney.
Burnside: Pierre, given how Calgary GM Darryl Sutter went from "I'm not trading Dion Phaneuf" to dealing him to Toronto, I guess you have to take everything a GM says with a grain of salt at this time of year. But the pressure is definitely on Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to do something to get his team back on track; the Bruins are poised to go from the top Eastern Conference team during the regular season in 2008-09 to missing the playoffs entirely this season. Would I trade a lottery pick for Ray Whitney? Probably not. But then again, I don't have the worst offensive team in the conference.
The Senators are certainly among the hottest teams in the league, but they aren't a particularly deep team when it comes to young assets. I would expect GM Bryan Murray will be pretty cautious about giving away what little he has, even for a player with Whitney's pedigree. Any other dark horses that might jump in on the Whitney action? How about Nashville?
LeBrun: Two dark horses could be Phoenix and, yes, Nashville. I'm told both clubs want to add some offense, but with money being a prime consideration, as you might suspect. In the case of the Coyotes, which suffered a brutal injury loss (Scottie Upshall), I'm told they can only really do a "dollar-for-dollar" deal, so I'm not sure how that would work with Whitney. The Preds are actually a respectable 13th in the NHL in offense, but rank a dismal 29th on the power play. That's why I think Whitney would be a good fit there. But remember, Scotty, Whitney has a no-trade clause; he controls his fate. He may get picky when the time comes for Rutherford to show him what's out there.
We should mention before we go that you and I both believe the Hurricanes may want to try to bring Whitney back July 1 as an unrestricted free agent. That's something to keep in mind for contending teams in case they had designs of trying to keep him around. Well, my friend, we'll talk again Tuesday!
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