Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins Pick Up Speedy, Gritty Winger

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins general manager Ray Shero pulled the trigger on a trade Thursday afternoon, sending defenseman Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi.


"I think with the emergence of Kris Letang, and of course with Gonchar coming back and with Alex Goligoski and his development this year, it gave us one extra defenseman in terms of trying to get a top six forward, which I think we have with Chis Kunitz," Shero said. "Also with Eric, he is a guy our scouts just really liked, especially his draft year, and he’s having a great year in Belleville this year."

Kunitz, 29, has 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) and 55 penalty minutes in 62 games with Anaheim this season. The left winger, who will be in the lineup for the Penguins Friday at Chicago, ranks fifth on the Ducks with 16 goals and leads the team with 148 hits. 

"With Chris Kunitz coming here, he’s got 148 hits and he’s a top-six guy," said interim head coach Dan Bylsma, who knows Kunitz from his time in Anaheim. "He drives to the net and creates space for people. He’s a pretty speedy guy up front. Immediately that’s what you can expect from Chris Kunitz. I’ve played with him and coached him. That’s what he does. He’s straight forward. He goes and gets pucks. He drives to the net. He’s around the net a lot so you’ll find him there, getting goals and creating space for people."

The 6-1,198-pound Kunitz posted career highs with 25 goals and 60 points in 81 games in 2006-07, when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. In 2007-08, he led Anaheim with six game-winning goals and ranked third on the team in goals (21), assists (29) and points (50).

I think Kunitz is going to jump right in and be a top six guy for us. So Kunitz is going to help us right away in our top six and like I said, I like the way he plays the game. He’s been a leader and he’ll jump right into our group here and help out. He plays a physical brand of hockey and that’s what we’re looking to add to our lineup and he has the character that I’m looking for as well. - Ray Shero
"I think Kunitz is going to jump right in and be a top six guy for us," Shero said. "So I think it’s a good message that here is a guy that’s not only here for this year but moving forward. So Kunitz is going to help us right away in our top six and like I said, I like the way he plays the game. He’s been a leader and he’ll jump right into our group here and help out. And then of course with the bigger picture in mind, he’s signed moving forward for an additional three years and that’s important. He plays a physical brand of hockey and that’s what we’re looking to add to our lineup and he has the character that I’m looking for as well."

Tangradi, 20, is in his third season with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).  He ranks second in the OHL with 87 points (38 goals, 49 assists), two behind John Tavares (89), who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Tangradi also ranks fourth in the league with 38 goals in 52 games this season.

The 6-4, 221-pound forward has played 173 games in the OHL, collecting 167 points (67 goals, 100 assists) and 130 penalty minutes.  He is the Bulls captain and was originally drafted by Anaheim in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2007 Entry Draft. The native of Philadelphia represented Team USA at the 2009 World Junior Championships in Ottawa. 

"He’ll be ready to turn pro next year," Shero said. "He’s a big left winger, 6-4, and he’s the type of prospect we like to add to our group moving forward. He’s a kid who who played in the World Juniors for the American team ... He’s in the top scorers of the OHL but he’s a guy I would say that he’s raw, really raw. But he’s got big time physical ability, 6-foot-4, he has real good hands and hockey sense. To add that type of player to our prospect pool I think is very important for us and a big part of the deal."

But to get something, you have to give something away. Whitney played 253 career games with the Penguins from 2005-09, recording 34 goals and 116 assists for 150 points. He was the Penguins first-round draft pick (fifth overall) in 2002 and has spent all his professional career with the Penguins organization.

"It’s hard," Shero said. "You’re around these kids for almost three years now and I really got to know Ryan and like him and his family. So that makes it difficult but at the end of the day my responsibility is to the hockey team and making this the best team I can moving forward. Ryan’s done a good job here with this group and I’m sure he’ll continue his career and do a really good job for Anaheim as well. Hopefully it’s going to be good for both teams."

"I was traded last year at the deadline," forward Matt Cooke said. "Sometimes even as hard as it is, it can be healthy for both sides. It’s a situation that we have no control over. Not many guys are getting no trade clauses anymore. It can happen at any time."

He drives to the net and creates space for people. He’s a pretty speedy guy up front. Immediately that’s what you can expect from Chris Kunitz. He’s straight forward. He goes and gets pucks. He drives to the net. He’s around the net a lot so you’ll find him there, getting goals and creating space for people. - Dan Bylsma
"(Whitney) was a big part of our team," Bylsma said. "When he leaves you miss a friend, you might be missing a roommate, you might be missing a defensive partner. You’re getting into a situation with new people coming in. There’s always an adjustment. We are losing a good guy, good teammate, good person and a good player. There’s an adjustment but this isn’t the first time in professional hockey that this has happened. It’s probably happened for this team before in the past. We wish Ryan well and we’ll get to know Chris Kunitz here in a hurry."

Kunitz will meet the team in Chicago. He'll be introduced to his new teammates and spend some time with the coaching staff. Kunitz will suit up for the Penguins Friday night against the Blackhawks and Bylsma already has a good idea of what he'll get from the newest Penguin.

"I think I know real well what we’re going to see on the ice and what to expect from him," Bylsma said. "When you know a player’s foundation and you know what they’re going to bring then you can immediately point him in the right direction, hold them accountable and tell them this is what we’re going to expect and demand from you. He’s going to come in and play a gritty game.

"He is around the net creating chances for himself but also chances for other people coming in behind him to pick up rebounds. He’s in on the forecheck, hunting down pucks, laying the body and creating that turnover situation for offensive zone time to start. That’s a good combination for a guy who likes to have the puck on his stick and likes to make plays. He’s opening it up for the people around him. He’ll go to the net. In the NHL, you don’t score many goals if you don’t go to the blue paint. You will see Chris Kunitz in the blue paint."

View More