Pierre Lebrun of ESPN is reporting that if the Coyotes start falling out of playoff contention then Ray Whitney might be sent packing. And he lists the New York Rangers as a team “coveting” the winger. Whitney is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and a 39 years old is a candidate for retirement. As such, Phoenix has little reason to keep him around if they aren’t realistically in the playoff picture. Let’s analyze the likelihood of a trade and where he’d fit in.
Though Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov have improved their play in recent games, the easiest spot for the Rangers to upgrade is at left wing. Whitney would instantly improve our top-6 and provide an additional scoring presence. He’s scored at least 20 goals in four of the last five seasons and has 15 goals and 50 points in 55 games this season despite little talent around him. Putting him on the wing of Brad Richards or Derek Stepan would definitely set Whitney up for success.
At 39 Whitney has loads of experience and he’s won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, but with that experience does come questions of his durability; will he be able to survive a long playoff run?
Nonetheless, the Rangers figure to be a player for Whitney. The major concern, as always, is what it will take to acquire him (if Phoenix is even interested in moving him). The Rangers have a few things working in their favor. Ray Whitney has a No-Trade Clause allowing him to pick eight teams he’d accept a move to, and with the Rangers’ success this season I’d assume we are one of them (or that he’d at least waive his NTC to come here). Thus, Coyotes GM Don Maloney only has the leverage of 7 other potential teams (some of which I would guess wouldn’t have serious interest in Whitney). And speaking of Maloney, as former Assistant GM of the Rangers he and Glen Sather have a very good relationship and have shown time and time again how comfortable they are trading with each other.
Whitney is a solid but not great player, and because he’s a 39 year old UFA I would not think his price will be that high. That being said, I would also guess that Whitney enjoys Phoenix and because of the Coyotes financial situation they will be reluctant to give up on earning a spot in the playoffs. Still, I do not think the Rangers would have to give up any blue-chip prospects to bring Whitney to New York. And I think ultimately, if he is available in the coming weeks, that he is as likely of a target as anybody on the market.