Today's trade of Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi may have left some Penguins fans asking the question:
This is the scoring winger we are getting to play with Sid?
While the initial reaction might be to assume Shero expects Kunitz to play on Sid's wing, in a role similar to what Marian Hossa's was, the comments from both Shero and coach Bylsma after the trade was announced make me think both men expect Kunitz to be more of a replacement for Ryan Malone.
Shero - from the Pens website
We identified Chris as being near top of our list in terms of the type of player we wanted that was signed moving forward and could fit in with our group. I think Kunitz is going to jump right in and be a top-six guy for us. I like the way he plays the game. He plays a physical brand of hockey and that's what we're looking to add to our lineup and he has the character that I'm looking for as well.
Bylsma - from the Pens website
With Chris Kunitz coming here, he's got 148 hits and he's a top-six guy. He drives to the net and creates space for people. He's a pretty speedy guy up front. Immediately that's what you can expect from Chris Kunitz. I've played with him and coached him. That's what he does. He's straight forward. He goes and gets pucks. He drives to the net. He's around the net a lot so you'll find him there, getting goals and creating space for people.
It's pretty clear that neither guy expects Kunitz to score 40 goals and get 80 plus points.
If that's what the Pens expect from Kunitz -- that he will be a physical top six forward that contributes in a way similar to Ryan Malone -- then I think he will deliver. And I expect that he COULD be closer to a 50-60 point player, like he was a few years ago, given the scoring chances he will have playing with Malkin and Crosby.
Although Kunitz is a physical player, with some good speed, he is not the size of Ryan Malone (Kunitz about 6 feet and 195 compared to Malone at 6' 4"/ 220lbs). So he may not be able to fill Bugsy's shoes completely (especially when it comes to fighting)...BUT the chances look decent he will fill those shoes better than anybody else has to date.
SIDE NOTE: Watch him when he plays and look at his face (with his helmet on)...tell me who he bares a slight resemblance to...
Of course, the Pens lost a very talented offensive defenseman in Ryan Whitney.
Whitney has been a very good and sometimes great player for the Pens. But, in a season that has been more about circumstances than anyone would have thought, Ryan, like the Pens record to date and coach Therrien, became another victim of them.
Simply put, Whitney has lots of offensive capability...but defensively it would be incorrect to label him as anything but average. On this team -- when you have the likes of Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski on your roster -- that is a replaceable commodity.
Letang and GoGo offer similar offensive games and seem to be at least as good as Whitney on the defensive side of the ledger. Plus, both guys are currently a lot less expensive than Whitney (although the trade is about a wash financially).
But let's not kid ourselves...we lost a good guy when they traded Whitney (that's not to say that Kunitz isn't a good guy too). A guy that had a good locker room presence and great sense of humor:
Whitney on the trade - from Yahoo Sports
To get the call that I was traded and that they are actually in town right now, it's been pretty crazy, he said, referring to the Duckss game Thursday night against the Bruins.
Whitney realizes he will have to make some adjustments to Southern California.
I've always known cold weather with Boston and Pittsburgh, he said. Obviously, I'm going to have to buy some shorts.
So-- Shero exchanged offensive scoring from the blueline - something he hopes to still get from Letang and/or GoGo - with some scoring and GRIT up front. All for about the same price (a little less actually).
I think that's a decent deal.
Oh...and by the way...they also got a 6' 4", 225 pound 20 year old left wing named Eric Tangradi.
Apparently Tangradi is someone the Pens scouts had their eyes on a couple of years ago...and he has only improved in the OHL since then. He has 87 points in 52 games (38 goals) this season. I heard him speaking in an interview on a local radio station today about the trade and the kid sounds like he is very confident. By all accounts he joins the organization and heads to near the top of the list of Penguin prospects.
Of course it's a big difference between the OHL and the NHL (even the AHL for that matter)...but with his size, he might be in a Penguin uniform sooner rather than later.
All in all, I think Shero did OK with this trade.
Sure, everyone would like to have seen an Ilya Kovalchuk come back in a trade for Ryan Whitney. But there is a big difference between fantasy and reality. And the reality is that with guys like Bouwmeester and Kaberle on the market - two players who would certainly be ranked above Ryan at his position - I think Shero probably got as much as he could for Whitney.
As always...only time will tell.