Extracting maximum value for Ryan Whitney

Jonathan Willis
March 29 2013 01:51PM

There’s news out of Boston regarding the possibility of a Ryan Whitney trade, and it suggests that the Edmonton Oilers aren’t looking to just off-load the pending unrestricted free agent for whatever they can get. They’re looking for maximum return.

Here’s the key paragraph from Boston beat writer Joe Haggerty’s latest blog:

Ryan Whitney: The Bruins are looking for a defenseman and there’s little doubt the Massachusetts native would love to play for the Black and Gold. The Bruins have made phone calls about Whitney and it seemed like things might have been progressing on that front Wednesday when the Iginla deal looked imminent. But now it’s cooled off a little as the Bruins regroup and go for Plan B. The Edmonton Oilers are said to be looking for a Douglas Murray-type return (two second round picks) or a goaltender (Niklas Svedberg) in exchange for Whitney, and neither of those is going to happen. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see a Jordan Caron-for-Ryan Whitney still happen if the Bruins need to get an offensive defenseman.

Lowetide wrote about Caron and Svedberg earlier; Svedberg is enjoying an excellent rookie season in the AHL after some strong work in Sweden and would be a legitimate backup for Edmonton. It’s understandable both why the Oilers would be interested and why the Bruins would be unwilling to make that deal. Caron has first-round draft pedigree but results in both the AHL and NHL haven’t been particularly overwhelming to date.

The return on Murray was steep and not likely to be duplicated in a Whitney deal, but with the trade deadline still days away the Oilers have time to try and negotiate the best return possible. The steep ask is wise, and while it will doubtless need to drop to get a deal done that can wait. Barring injury, the value of veteran defencemen doesn’t decrease as the deadline gets closer.

The Bigger Trade

After describing Hockey Buzz as “highly entertaining”, Haggerty promptly dismisses the notion that Milan Lucic is in play at all, let alone for the site’s rumoured package of Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney and a draft pick. It’s well known the Bruins are hoping to add a winger for the playoffs; Haggerty suggests that a trade could expand to include Paajarvi or Hemsky, but makes it clear that Lucic is not going the other way. Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald also added another Edmonton name to the list – Ryan Smyth – as a possible trade target for the Bruins. We might speculate that Ryan Jones, another pending unrestricted free agent, is a possibility as well if the Bruins really are interested in Smyth.

Is a bigger trade possible? Yes. The Bruins are in a position where they have a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup, so if the Oilers wish to move a winger Boston is a logical partner. Hemsky played (successfully) with David Krejci during the lockout, which might make him more appealing, while with Nail Yakupov in the system the Oilers might not be averse to moving him. Paajarvi seems less plausible as a trade candidate, simply because he’s a good fit for the Oilers’ age cluster, while Smyth and Jones could obviously be dealt.

On the other hand, Oilers Nation's Jason Gregor suggested that the Bruins and Oilers weren't really discussing a forward as part of a deal:

With Jarome Iginla landing in Pittsburgh, not Boston like it was reported last night, you wonder if the Oilers/Bruins trade talks will continue. Two sources told me that nothing was imminent, but that some minor "tire-kicking" had gone on between the Oilers and Bruins. Ryan Whitney's name was involved, and then Boston reporter Joe Haggerty tweeted that he heard a forward was also involved. He mentioned Ales Hemsky in one tweet and then Magnus Paajarvi in another. A source from Edmonton suggested there has been no talk regarding a forward.

As common as big trades at the deadline are in rumour, they’re more difficult to execute in reality. The most likely outcome is probably the simple move that happens a lot at the deadline: Ryan Whitney to Boston for a draft pick or a prospect.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.