According to TSN, it’s looking like the 2010 free agent class could get a boost this summer when Hurricanes’ winger Ray Whitney hits the market on July 1st. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is less than optimistic about his chances at re-signing the talented playmaker:
“I think it will be difficult with where he will be at, contract-wise. I expect him to go into July. It appears that’s the way it’s going to go.”
Could Whitney provide an interesting fit for the Maple Leafs?
At 38 years of age, he’s going to likely available on a 1 year contract, which would mesh well financially for the Leafs.Â If they find themselves out of contention in March, this is a player who would fetch a significant price at the trade deadline. Carolina received two offers for Whitney at this past March, but he exercised his no-trade clause (something he likely won’t get with his next contract) to stay. However, considering where he is at this stage of his career, it’s very possible that Ray limits himself to a team that will give him a reasonable chance to win.
On the ice, Whitney has been consistently very productive recently,Â posting a 0.903 PPG mark over his past 4 seasons. His numbers were markedly down across the board this year for the offensively-challenged Hurricanes, though he did finish 3rd overall in team scoring with 58 points. Despite the off-year, Whitney still profiles as one of the league’s top passing wingers and could take Kulemin’s spot feeding pucks to Kessel on the top line, while also taking care of business in his own end.
Get this: Whitney ranked 1st among Hurricanes players (including defensemen), and 13th overall among NHL forwards in takeaways last season with 63. By comparison, the highest ranked Maple Leafs‘ player (forwards AND defensemen) was not surprisingly Nikolai Kulemin, who was praised every night for his ability to win loose pucks, with 52. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
In addition to stuffing the statsheet, Ray can also bring experience, character, and excellent leadership qualities to the Leafs’ locker room. His lengthy and impressive resume includes a Stanley Cup ring, a Memorial Cup championship, two all-star selections, and the captaincy of this year’s Canadian World Cup team. The guy’s simply a winner. Canadian Head coach Craig MacTavish had plenty of praise for the grizzled veteran:
“He’s clearly a guy from our observation that the guys have gravitated to. “Like I said the other day, (it’s important to) have the perspective. He can frame things the right way at crucial times because of those experiences that he’s had…We felt like he was the guy.”
Personally, I’ve also been a big fan of Whitney’s game as the one of better all-around players in the league. He possesses the kind of intangibles that Burke and Wilson are fond of, and would finally provide the young Leaf forwards with someone to look up to. Take a look at how the presence of Phaneuf impacted Schenn’s game over the last few weeks of the season. If Kovalchuk prices himself out of your range and Frolov’s inconsistency scares you off, then taking a run at Ray Whitney for something in the neighborhood of $4.5 – 5.0M on a 1 year term might be an attractive backup option.