One of the most consistent names we heard leading up to the NHL trade deadline earlier this month was Ryan Whitney of the Oilers. Would Edmonton deal the puck moving defenseman who is viewed as an offensive catalyst in the past? Turns out the club decided to hold on to the 30-year old in hopes of making a run at the playoffs. Now that the playoff hopes are officially over for the Oilers, so to is the Ryan Whitney era in Edmonton.
The newly named GM of the Oilers, Craig MacTavish held a year-end press conference earlier today and touched on a number of topics and individual players. Ryan Whitney was one of those players and Mac-T did not skirt the question when asked what Whitney’s future was with the Oilers as Mark Spector tweeted:
— Mark Spector Sports (@SportsnetSpec) April 29, 2013
Interesting turn of events for Whitney who was a healthy scratch for a handful of games this season for the Oilers. One scout thought he lost his foot speed and couldn’t play at the NHL level anymore. A few weeks later Whitney finds his scoring touch and suddenly he’s back into being one of the top four defenseman for the Oilers.
While talk of an extension was never in play, this move shouldn’t surprise many Oiler fans whether they like it or not.
MacTavish stated loud and clear when he was introduced as the new GM that changes were imminent. That much he promised. Earlier today he said as many as eight new players could be on the Oilers roster next season. When you hear that you automatically think of guys like Whitney as one of the players that wont’ be back.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent, Whitney could be in line for an average salary of what he made with the Oilers; in that neighborhood of $4 million per season. It’s hard to fathom that he’d get another six-year deal like the got from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
None the less, that type of money wasn’t coming from the Oilers, not for a guy that was a healthy scratch on more than one occasion this season.
With the Oilers planning on making major changes, Whitney just doesn’t have a place with the Oilers going forward. There are rumors that Edmonton will be heavily invested on Mark Streit of the New York Islanders should he hit the open market. Streit, who is making similar to Whitney this season has produced 26 points to the 13 from Whitney. Streit is five years older than Whitney mind you.
The blue line was clearly the biggest hole for the Oilers this past season and here they are allowing a somewhat mobile defenseman who can still contribute offensively (albeit at a lesser rate than what he has shown in the past) to walk away, further depleting the defense corps.
Regardless, changes are necessary for the Oilers. Scratch that. Changes are mandatory for the Oilers and allowing Whitney to leave is the first step towards MacTavish following through on his promise to the fans.
Should they have traded Whitney at the deadline and gotten something, anything for him? Perhaps, but hind sight is always 20/20. But as Oiler fans, we’re used to looking in the rear view and saying ‘what if.’ As for the future? Well that still remains to be seen if we should be buying what MacTavish is selling. He’s off to a good start by coming out and admitting that Whitney won’t return.