Ryan Whitney‘s play may have him moving out of Edmonton in the next few weeks.
It’s not what you think.
All of the Whitney talk early this year was focused around around his poor play and his stints sitting in the press box. Many were wondering why a former top pairing defenseman was struggling so badly.
Not the case anymore. Whitney’s play has drastically improved, and he has been a mainstay in the Edmonton Oilers lineup recently. After being a healthy scratch in six of eight games, he has been on the ice in the last ten straight and has six points in his last five games. While he may not be the top pairing defenseman he used to be, he is certainly an asset to the lineup.
Coming over in the Lubomir Visnovsky trade from Anaheim in 2009, Whitney logged big time minutes in his first year and a half. He averaged almost a point a game for the Oilers before multiple injuries and surgeries put a damper on his subsequent seasons. He is not that player anymore, but is starting to show he can still be a factor in a third pairing role and contribute on the power play.
The question now is do the Oilers look to still move him, or has his play made them consider keeping him in the orange and blue?
A few factors will come in to play. First will be what the Oilers can get in return. Whether they intend to move him or not, GM Steve Tambellini will listen to all offers. If they can get a decent draft pick or player in return, it may well be worth it.
The other issue is his contract. Whitney currently earns $4 million per year in salary. The number itself should not impact the decision greatly, as he is set to become a UFA at the end of the season. Although the fact teams would be getting a rental, and one with some risk, may affect the aforementioned return.
The other option is to keep Whitney. He is, at his best, an excellent puck-moving defenseman with good size, and those are hard to find. If the Oilers want to make a serious playoff push, they will need Whitney in the lineup and playing well.
At the end of the season, they can decide to re-sign him (likely at a discount) if he is interested in staying in Edmonton, or they can simply let him go via free agency and free up the cap space with his expired contract.
The fact that Whitney has picked his game up is a positive either way for the Oilers. His improved play either gives them another NHL puck-moving defenseman, or another asset to put towards the rebuild via the trade route.
The Oilers hope Whitney will continue his strong play and maximize his value both for the Oilers and the trade market.