After losing the gold medal game last Sunday in Vancouver, Ryan Whitney probably had his fill of Canadians for a while.
But the U.S. Olympian will have to get used to a lot more of them now that he’s an Edmonton Oiler.
The shock of moving from Anaheim to 30th place Edmonton hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but the 27-year-old defenceman is slowly wrapping his head around Wednesday’s deal for Lubomir Visnovsky.
“I had heard my name the last few days, but I didn’t think much of it because rumours are rumours,” said Whitney, who’s expected to join the team Thursday morning in Edmonton. “So I was pretty surprised.”
To say the least. Being traded is tough, being traded to the last-place team in the league is tougher.
“They won’t be playing in the playoffs this year, which is frustrating, those are the games you want to be a part of,” he said. “But I’m excited at the same time. I want to be looked at as a leader there, someone who can help the Oilers become a really good team again. It’s a great hockey town. It’s tough when you get traded to a team that’s rebuilding, but at the same time they’re looking at me as a guy they want to be a part of it and that’s a compliment. I look forward to it.”
He’ll be counted on to play a lot of minutes in a lot of situations, and for a player trying to live up to the potential that made him the fifth-overall pick in 2002, this could be the perfect springboard.
“I want to become a star in the league and I really believe that I can,” he said, adding he and the club can get to the next level together. “I want to be on a good, winning team and I think we’re going to be able to do that. It seems like the teams that go through the rough times are the teams that are competing for the Cup down the road. Look at Chicago, Washington and Pittsburgh.”
Whitney is a big body at six-foot-four, 219 pounds. He had 28 points in 62 games for Anaheim this season and is a $4 million cap hit. He spent four years with the Penguins before going to Anaheim in 2008.