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Ducks trade Chris Kunitz for Penguins' Ryan Whitney

February 26, 2009 | 10:40 am

Kunitz_2 Whitney_3

Bringing youth, puck-moving ability and a long-term contract to their blue line corps, the Ducks today traded left wing Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Ryan Whitney.

Kunitz, a gritty forward who played on the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team, is in the first year of a four-year contract that gives him a salary cap hit of $3.725 million. Whitney, who became expendable when Sergei Gonchar returned from a shoulder injury, is in the second year of a six-year deal. His annual cap hit is $4 million.

Tangradi was a second-round pick and 42nd overall in 2007. He's a Pennsylvania native, so he's going home.

The Ducks' defense, once a strength, has been a weak spot this season. Losing Francois Beauchemin to a knee injury took away some of their physicality and a booming shot from the point on the power play; Brett Festerling couldn't keep up, and Scott Niedermayer has had a rocky season trying to do too much and sometimes making mistakes that lead to not accomplishing enough.

The next question is what impact this deal will have on whether the Ducks will deal Chris Pronger before next Wednesday's trade deadline.

I still think they will trade him if they can get a young player who can play now and a first-round pick. That would accelerate the Ducks' rebuilding process: They wouldn't have to start from scratch with Whitney as a starting point on defense and Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan up front, plus whoever they might get in a Pronger trade.

More later on the trade at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott

Left photo: Former Ducks forward Chris Kunitz. Credit: Kirby Lee / US PRESSWIRE. Right Photo: Ducks defenseman and former Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Ryan Whitney. Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

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