Ray Whitney did his homework on the Dallas Stars before signing his two-year, $9 million contract with them Sunday.
In talking with Dallas-area reporters on a conference call, Whitney, who was joined in Dallas on Sunday by ex-Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome, mentioned the Stars' League-worst power play (13.5 percent) as well as how they were the one of the most penalized team in the NHL last season (4th most with 407 total penalties).
Whitney obviously knows the Stars since he played the last two seasons in the Pacific Division with the Phoenix Coyotes, so he also talked with some authority about a bunch of their high-end and still somewhat young players such as Jamie Benn, Phillip Larsen, Loui Eriksson and Alex Goligoski -- and how he sees himself fitting into that group at 40 years of age.
"I'm not going to come in talking bad about a power play I wasn't on, but if you go by the stats you see where it was last year and where finished," said Whitney, who led the Coyotes with 77 points last season, including 20 on the power play. "I'll to try to help that out as best I can and be a top six forward, be productive. But mostly just try to be a guy in the locker room that can help with some of the younger guys and try to help the guys go in the right direction."
Rome, who signed for three years and $4.5 million, isn't one of those young guys, but even at 28 years old he could probably learn a thing or two from Whitney, who won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. Rome played for the Canucks when they went to the Stanley Cup Final last year, but he was suspended for the final four games of the series for his high hit on Boston forward Nathan Horton.
Rome played 43 games for the Canucks last season, setting career-highs for goals (four), assists (six), and points (10). He's more known for his physicality as a 6-foot-1, 225-pound bruiser who has appeared in 174 career NHL regular-season games.
"Aaron is a physical defensive defenseman who adds size and grit to our blue line," Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. "He competes at a very high level and helps make our team harder to play against."
Clearly, Nieuwendyk believes it is possible for Whitney to help the Stars not only on the power play, but in all areas -- or he wouldn't have given him a two-year deal.
Whitney said the term of the contract was the biggest reason he chose Dallas.
"They were the one team that didn't see anything in my game that would make them afraid of giving a second year," he said. "That's what I was most appreciative of."
Nieuwendyk didn't see it as a risk.
"At some point there may be a drop off, but if you look at the last five years this guy always plays between 80 and 82 games and his numbers are pretty consistent," Nieuwendyk said of Whitney, who has averaged 66.9 points per season since the work stoppage. "He's a quality person. I know him and he's going to fit in well in our locker room."
Whitney has 1,003 points in 1,229 career games played. He understands why general managers across the League would be hesitant to give a 40-year-old a two-year contract, but he also believes with modern medicine and the way players take care of their bodies 40 is no longer the end of the road for players going forward.
"I wonder what makes everybody think I shouldn't be productive at that age," Whitney said. "I mean, just because you're at an age doesn't mean you're supposed to decline or you're supposed to all of a sudden not be able to play the game. It's been frustrating for me to have to deal with it. For most of my career it was my size, I was too short to play the game. I battled that after 18 years. Now it's the age, people question the age. There is nothing saying you can't play into your 40s.
"You figure out that if you keep training throughout the year and watch what you do with your body that you can continue on playing for as long as you want. Eventually father time will catch up to you, I understand that, but with today's modern medicine, the way surgeries are, the way players are being taken care of by doctors, there's nothing saying players from now on can't play into their 40s easily."
Whitney plans to prove it in Dallas. Nieuwendyk is looking forward to watching him do it.
"He's coming off a 77-point season. He's still one of the premier offensive players even at that age," Nieuwendyk said. "With (Mike) Ribeiro going out we were in need of replacing some of that production, some of that skill. He's the type of player that makes players around him better, too, so it's going to bode well for players like Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and our power play."
We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.
— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp