I shudder to think what the Edmonton Oilers defence would look like without Ryan Whitney. Then again, the Anaheim Ducks would have an uglier back end than Terry Jones trundling up the press box stairs without Lubomir Visnovsky.
For all the debate when GM Steve Tambellini dealt Visnovsky to Anaheim for Whitney at the 2010 NHL trade deadline, what’s obvious, with the Oilers and Ducks facing each other today, is Whitney and Visnovsky have both served their new teams well since swapping addresses.
Whitney, 27, leads Oilers defenceman, and is among NHL leaders, with 0-16-16 in 18 games this season. He’s playing 25:55 a night and is a minus-1. All told since the trade, Whitney has 3-24-27 and is plus-6 in 37 games with the Oilers.
The rest of Edmonton’s defence, a group that includes Kurtis Foster, Theo Peckham, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Jim Vandermeer, Shawn Belle and Jason Strudwick, has combined for 21 points.
Visnovsky, 34, has been every bit as impressive. He’ll face the Oilers today with 3-14-17 and a plus-5 rating in 22 games. He’s playing 25:14 a game. Since the trade, Visnovsky has compiled 8-22-30 with a rating of minus-1 in 38 games. The rest of Anaheim’s defence has combined for 21 points this season.
So, here we are.
WHAT I SAID
The 2010 trade deadline was obviously a hot topic. My take on it drew 309 comments. Here’s how I summed up Tambellini’s swap of Visnovsky for Whitney in the March 4 story:
"I get it why people like Visnovsky as a player. He’s smart. He’s productive. He thinks the game. He’s a damn good player, by far the best the Oilers have had on the back end the past two seasons.
"Visnovsky is also 33, and, unless he can buck Father Time over the final three years of his contract, his effectiveness, ice time and points production will almost certainly decline. Would Visnovsky have been a significant part of an Oilers team ready to contend in, say, 2011-12?
"Whitney, on the other hand, is just entering his prime. While there’s no doubt he’s struggled in Anaheim with just 4-24-28 this season (his bad numbers make him the Oilers leading scorer on defence), past seasons lead me to believe he’s better than he’s shown.
"With 38-150-188 in 335 games, including a career-high 59 points with Pittsburgh in 2005-06, Whitney sits at .56 points per game to this point in his career. That, it turns out, is the same as Visnovsky, who comes in at .56 with 88-254-342 in 606 games.
"So, which player will have been more productive when we add up the points the next three seasons? Whitney at $4 million or Visnovsky at $5.6 million? I know where my money is."
BEGGING TO DIFFER
A lot of people weren’t nearly as impressed with Tambellini’s work at the deadline in shipping out Visnovsky for Whitney. Here’s portions of some of the takes that you provided:
— TobiasFunke March 04 2010: "A fire hydrant could amass 59 points playing with Malkin, Crosby, and Gonchar. He failed miserably with Getzlaf and Perry. Wonder how he will fare with Gagner and Penner……"
–Jay March 04 2010: "I don’t think there’s a chance that Whitney will outperform Visnovsky points-wise in the next 3 years. I’d actually bet that Visnovsky will out perform Whitney on his next contract too. Visnovsky is a very good offensive D-man. Is it his fault that he played on perhaps one of the worst teams in the last 20 years?"
— Ender March 04 2010: "Lubo was expensive, but he was earning every penny of his paycheque. That makes him very valuable to any team. Whitney, I would argue, is not worth every penny of $4M. That makes him drop drastically in my eyes in value, and that’s why I don’t have a problem with Staios for Johnson but I do with Lubo for Whitney."
The snippet from Ender was part of a much longer comment, so if you want it in full context refer to the comments section from March 4.
HERE AND NOW
I’m not surprised Whitney has performed as well as he has since his arrival in Edmonton. I knew his foot problems, not to mention how he was being used by Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, were a factor in his slide in performance from his best season in Pittsburgh.
I’ll give all the Lubo lovers credit, though. Given his age, Visnovsky has performed better than I thought he would when the trade was made. He’s playing with a whole bunch of nothing on the back end in Anaheim, just as Whitney is here, and he’s still putting up very good numbers.
While Whitney is providing a bit more bang for the buck to this point — his cap hit is $4 million and he’ll earn $4.5 million this season, $5 million in 2011-12 and $5.5 in 2012-13 — Visnovsky has earned his money, as well. He’s a $5.6 million cap hit. He’ll earn $6 million this season, $5 million in 2011-12 and $3 million in 2012-13.
As it stands today, it’s looking a like a pretty good trade on both ends of the bargain. That said, I’ll stick with my original contention to Lubo Lovers that Whitney will outperform Visnovsky over the balance of their current contracts — there’s another 220 games or so remaining in the terms.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.