The Dallas Stars have an opportunity at the trade deadline to benefit their future without the cost of hurting their current playoff run. The opportunity comes in the form of trading away Ray Whitney.
On Jul. 1, 2012, the Stars signed the veteran winger to a two-year, $9 million contract. They hoped he would provide leadership for some of the young players on the roster and be a stop-gap to fill a roster spot while other prospects continue to develop. They also hoped he would help the power play and continue to produce close to the level he had been the previous two seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Since arriving in Dallas, Whitney has provided exactly what the Stars needed. However, it is time for the Stars to look at other options.
Whitney’s valuable experience and leadership helped the team in a lockout-shortened 2012-13 season that saw an influx of youth into the lineup, especially after the trade deadline. He was more than just a stop-gap for the Stars. He played a lot of minutes on the top two lines and developed a real chemistry with rookie Alex Chiasson. Whitney’s vision and crisp passing helped give Chiasson an amazing start to his NHL career, with six goals and an assist in his first seven games. Whitney helped the power play with his patience and playmaking, and he spent a lot of time on the second line last season. This season, it seems his age has caught up to him.
The 41-year-old has seen his ice time decrease, as he has been on the fourth line for most of the season. His production has taken a dip as well; he tallied 29 points in 32 games last season and 134 points in 157 games the two previous seasons with the Coyotes, but he has only registered seven goals and 22 points in 53 games this season. He also seems to have lost a step as he has been caught by defenders and pushed off the puck more often than in years past. His passing has not quite been the same. His passing judgment has not been as effective and it seems like more of his passes are being intercepted this season. He has not been able to produce as well on the powerplay. He is struggling on the second powerplay unit despite being an impact player on the top unit last season.
The Stars may not get something substantial as a return, but a draft pick or prospect under the surveillance of general manager Jim Nill is just as good. If traded, the Stars can call up Colton Sceviour, Chris Mueller or Travis Morin to fill Whitney’s role on the fourth line.
Whitney has proved to be a good signing for the Stars, but trading him can help the team’s future without critically hurting their current push for the playoffs. Whitney will garner interest as a solid rental player for a contender or a playoff bubble team in need of help. In trading Whitney, the Stars can help their future without sacrificing the present.