Oilers Watch: Whitney trade a perfect fit

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The Oilers may have lost defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky at the trade deadline, but the player they got back in return is certainly no step down.

In one of those rare deals where both teams got immediate help, Edmonton received blueliner Ryan Whitney for the departed Visnovsky, now a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

This is the second time in Whitney’s short career that he’s been traded, but don’t look at that in a negative light; think of him simply as a guy teams have been forced to give up if they really want a certain puzzle piece in return.

Seven years younger than Visnovsky, Whitney also brings offensive hops to the Edmonton blueline and has excelled in the role before, tallying 59 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006-07. He has a wealth of playoff experience despite being just 27 years old, plus a silver medal from the Vancouver Olympics as part of Team USA. And, at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Whitney is a tough guy to ignore if you’re an opposing forward.

Simply put, the Boston native is a perfect cornerstone for the Oilers blueline as the team rebuilds. Whitney, who was seen as a future cornerstone in Pittsburgh before needs and impending cap decisions triggered a trade for Chris Kunitz, is already locked into a contract until 2013. The annual stipend is a very reasonable $4 million against the salary cap, which is a nice change for a team that has overpaid for talent in the past.

Sheldon Souray and Ladislav Smid are both on the shelf right now, which will limit the immediate effectiveness of Whitney (he can’t do it alone, of course), but this was a very good trade for the Edmonton blueline.

With two very heartening wins over Minnesota and New Jersey, the Oilers are playing out the string, but at least they’re hearts are in it. March featured games against every other Canadian team except Calgary, not to mention marquee names such as Detroit and San Jose. Whitney will be a catalyst from here on out and even if there aren’t as many wins as losses, it’s fair to say Edmonton got a ‘W’ on deadline day and the future is just a little bit brighter this week than last.

This article also appeared in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.

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