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Penguins send Whitney to Ducks for Chris Kunitz, Eric Tangradi @NHLdotcom

PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins traded defenceman Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi on Thursday.

Whitney, who turned 26 last week, missed Wednesday's night's 1-0 win against the New York Islanders. The Penguins said he was in Boston attending to a family matter.

Kunitz, 29, is in the first year of a US$14.9-million, four-year deal. He will likely see time on Sidney Crosby's wing once he joins the Penguins.

Whitney signed a $24-million, six-year contract in July 2007 that was supposed to make him a key part of the Penguins' future. He has struggled after missing the first 33 games of this season following foot surgery, recording just two goals and 11 assists in 28 games.

Kunitz, a left-winger, had 16 goals and 19 assists in 62 games for the Ducks.

Tangradi, 20, has 38 goals and 49 assists in 52 games this season with the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League. He is not expected to make an immediate impact with the Penguins.

Whitney appeared to be part of the Penguins' nucleus of young stars - including Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal - when he signed the long-term deal with the team after a breakthrough 2006-2007 season in which he had 14 goals and 45 assists.

But Whitney's production dropped to 12 goals and 28 assists last season, plus a goal and five assists in the playoffs when the Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup final against Detroit.

Whitney attributed the decline to skating problems caused by misaligned bones in his left foot. He had surgery to correct the problem in August, after various orthopedic inserts in his skates failed to remedy it.

Whitney, a six-foot-four 215-pounder, averaged nearly 25 minutes a game this season, his fourth with the Penguins, who picked him fifth overall in the 2002 draft. He has 34 goals and 114 assists in 253 career games with the Penguins.

The six-foot-one, 198-pound Kunitz led the Ducks with 148 hits in his sixth NHL season. He has 81 goals and 111 assists in 315 games with the Ducks and the Atlanta Thrashers. Kunitz posted career highs of 25 goals and 60 points when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in the 2006-2007 season.

Tangradi, a Philadelphia native, is a six-foot-four, 221-pound forward who played for the United States in the 2009 world junior championships in Ottawa.

He's in his third season in the OHL and was Anaheim's second-round pick (42nd overall) in the 2007 draft.

The NHL trade deadline is March 4.

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