I like quoting myself, because I think of myself as a hockey prophet. A modern-day Nostradamus of the puck. So indulge me for a moment. Current National Post hand and former co-czar of Covered in Oil Chris Boutet lamented around 3 PM Eastern via the Twitters:
Steve Tambellini, gettin' it done! If by "it" you mean "absolutely nothing at all." What a snooze of a trade deadline.
To which my reply was:
The only thing worse than Steve Tambellini evaluating his potential trades is when Steve Tambellini actually makes one.
Sure enough, we wait about half an hour and Steve Tambellini has completed his assessment. He's stared at this roster of stiffs, morons, has-beens and never-could-bes. He fingers his chin thoughtfully. Unbelievably, teams aren't breaking the doors down for Ethan Moreau or One-Arm Shawn Horcoff. He has to do something. After all, this is a team chock full of courage still waiting to be assessed. Perhaps he looks at the Tweettubes, sees the fans lamenting his inactivity only a few days after he dragged Denis Grebeshkov out behind the woodshed and executed him with a single shot.
He has maybe two assets who are worth anything. "Well, damn," he says. "I have to trade something or the fans will have my head." Well, there's a saying in the hockey world: he who listens to the fans will soon find himself among them.
So he calls Anaheim. "Hey," he says. "You guys were asking about Lubomir Visnovsky earlier? Well, I think maybe we could make this work."
Bob Murray, on the other end, is nobody's fool. He aims high and works his way down. "So how about Ryan Whitney?" says Bob. "He's younger, bigger, and he makes less." He's also worse. Considerably worse. Epically worse.
Steve Tambellini glances at the clock. It's 12:45, Mountain Standard Time. He knows that if he doesn't pull the trigger on something his press conference will be awkward, or it would be if Edmonton's hockey media wasn't competing to get him into the sack.
"Throw in a sixth-round pick," Tambellini says.
Bob Murray spits out his coffee.
And we're the ones who get burned.Okay. Ryan Whitney is a perfectly acceptable hockey player. I'd rather have him than a healthy Steve Staios or even Sheldon Souray after he gets his hand amputated and plays with a claw shoved into a glove. In 2006-07 he recorded a 59-point season, although that was on a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sergei Gonchar causing havoc. His QUALCOMP is right in the middle of the Ducks regular defensemen, as is his QUALTEAM. He's more-or-less replacement level in terms of relative +/- and he baaaaarely gets outscored at even strength. His PDO number is bang-on the median for the Anaheim Ducks.
He is spectacularly average on a team two games below .500. He's not crummy. And at 6'4" he brings some size to the team. He doesn't play hard but he plays harder than Lubomir Visnovsky did. If I woke up this morning and learned that Ryan Whitney was an Edmonton Oiler, in isolation, that wouldn't be bad.
But here are the problems. First, Ryan Whitney is 27, bang-on in his prime. Being bang-on in your prime isn't great when this team is, in all probability, going to be in the lottery in 2010-11 and will at best just miss the playoffs in 2011-12. By the time this team is ready to win a round or two - assuming Steve Tambellini ever gets this team ready to win a round or two - Whitney will be, what? 31? 32? He'll be Steve Staios? Is that really worth the downgrade in the short term from Lubomir Visnovsky?
Second, the money. Per the gurus at CapGeek, Whitney has three full seasons left on a cap hit of $4 million per year before going unrestricted. He will bank a total of $15 million over those three years. That's a hell of a lot of cap space to tie up on a perfectly average defenseman. The cap hit is an improvement of $1.6 million over what Visnovsky will make; both contracts expire the same year. And Visnovsky, who has been an excellent player on a terrible team instead of an average player on a slightly-below-average one, is far better value per dollar than Whitney.
Whitney has recurring foot problems, Visnovsky also gets hurt fairly frequently of late: let's call the injury history a wash. This trade isn't brutal. Not Grebeshkov-for-a-second brutal. But we're downgrading in the short term and not particularly getting anything long-term. We're markedly reducing our cap efficiency. Ryan Whitney is instantly the Oilers' second-best living defenseman behind Tom Gilbert. It's a loss, but it's not a huge loss.
Why am I happy about that?