The deal to acquire Ryan Whitney from the Pittsburgh Penguins has all but guaranteed either Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer will not be with the Anaheim Ducks when they drop the puck next season.
Odds are Pronger will be the one who is packing his bags, either within the next couple of days for a move to say, the Boston Bruins, or in the summer. That, of course, will depend on which way Niedermayer, who never seems to be able to make up his mind about these things, leans when it comes to his playing future.
Without a doubt, the Ducks appear to be taking Niedermayer over Pronger in this case.
Are we missing something here? Why on earth would the Ducks do that? Pronger, who is a year younger than Niedermayer, wants to play in the NHL for years to come. Niedermayer, on the other hand, can’t seem to decide how long he wants to hang on, if at all.
Are the Ducks suffering from some sort of rare form of amnesia? Do they forget that much of the reason they’re in the state they are was because Niedermayer dithered about his future before last season and sat out half the year – despite the fact he was under contract – before deciding he wanted to return to the NHL? Edmonton fans can say all they want about Pronger’s sense of loyalty, but to leave your team in that kind of situation while under contract is every bit as selfish as demanding a trade out of town.
The problem the Ducks would face with Pronger is that, even though he’s still under contract until after the 2009-10 season, he’s going to want to have an extension taken care of shortly after July 1 and he’s going to want a healthy increase in salary. Pronger signed a five-year deal with the Oilers worth an average of $6.25 million per season and there is little doubt he feels he has been underpaid the past couple of seasons. He got the security with this contract and the speculation is he’s going to want the money with the next one.
It’s also believed Pronger’s relationship with Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is not great – which hardly puts him in a minority. Carlyle is in the midst of that coaching cycle where his demanding style is beginning to wear on the Ducks players and soon it will be time to fire him and bring in someone with a gentler touch. It’s essentially the direct opposite of what happened to Tom Renney with the New York Rangers.
All of that will have to be taken care of in short order for the relationship between the Ducks and Pronger to work out in the long-term. There’s no doubt the Ducks will not have room under their salary cap for all three of Pronger, Niedermayer and Whitney long-term and they’ll have to decide whether they want to do something before the trade deadline or address it in the off-season.
In Whitney, the Ducks get a defenseman with some upside who has endured a miserable season in Pittsburgh and needed a change in a big way. The deal should also work well for Pittsburgh because if there’s one thing they had in abundance, particularly when Sergei Gonchar returned from injury recently, was offensive defensemen. With Gonchar, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, the Penguins won’t miss Whitney’s production too much, but should get a short-term boost from the crafty Chris Kunitz and long-term help from future power forward Eric Tangradi.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.