whitney-ryan090226

Former Penguins defenceman Ryan Whitney, left, spent the first half of this season recovering from off-season foot surgery. ((Rich Schultz/Associated Press))

Maligned for their lack of scoring depth, the Pittsburgh Penguins swung a trade for the present and the future on Thursday, dealing promising defenceman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim.

In return, Pittsburgh receives scoring left-winger Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi, a left-winger with the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls.

In an interview with CBCSports.ca, Ducks centre Todd Marchant expressed sadness in having to say goodbye to a good friend in Kunitz but also excitement as far as what the six-foot-four, 220-pound Whitney could bring to the team's back line.

"He's a  big defenceman, and we hope that he can come in and help us," Marchant said by phone from Boston. "We're in a playoff fight, and every point is going to be huge for us, so we're looking for him to play his game, and that'll take care of itself."

The NHL's trade deadline is March 4 at 3 p.m. ET.

The Penguins entered play Thursday in 10th spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference and out of a playoff spot with a 30-26-6 record. At 30-27-5, Anaheim is 10th in the West.

Pittsburgh is fifth in the East with 186 goals scored, but 73 of those have come from three players:  Evgeni Malkin, Petr Sykora and captain Sidney Crosby, who is currently nursing a groin injury.

Whitney, Kunitz signed long-term

Whitney is in the second season of a six-year contract worth $24 million US, while Kunitz is in the first year of a four-year, $14.9-million US pact.

Whitney, 26, returned to the Pittsburgh lineup in late December following off-season foot surgery and collected 13 points in 28 games with a team-worst minus-15 rating.

"We're excited to have [Whitney] back in our lineup," former Penguins head coach Michel Therrien said in December. "He's an important player. He's a player that moves the puck really well. He does a good job in the transition game. He's got good vision with the puck."

Whitney had 40 points in 76 regular-season games in 2007-08, and added six more points in 20 playoff contests during the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup final against Detroit.

The Boston native was Pittsburgh's second-highest-scoring defenceman behind Sergei Gonchar, who required shoulder surgery earlier this season and didn't return until Feb. 14 at Toronto.

"I know from watching on TV he's a big, strong kid with a good shot, and he'll fit in just fine with our team," said Marchant of Whitney.

Whitney provides some insurance for the Ducks with the future of defencemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer up in the air.

Kunitz great teammate, friend: Marchant

The 29-year-old Kunitz, who was part of Anaheim's Cup-winning team in 2007, has 16 goals and 35 points in 62 contests this season.

"He's been a great teammate and friend over the past four years," Marchant said. "Obviously, we wish him the best, but as we know, this is the nature of the business, especially this time of the year.

"There's been [trade] rumours about everyone on our team, and today, [management] made a decision to make a trade. Over the last few games, we've played better [with the increasing trade speculation]. Maybe it's working to our advantage."

Marchant believes Kunitz, who scored a career-best 25 goals and 60 points two seasons ago, has plenty to offer the Penguins. He will likely see time on Crosby's wing once the latter rejoins the Penguins.

"The one thing about Chris is that at the end of the game, if he doesn't show up on the scoresheet, chances are he made an impact somewhere in the game," Marchant said. "He's a guy that works hard every shift, every game, day in and day out. He's not a very big guy but he skates very well, is very physical, does all the little things.

"And if you ask [his former Ducks linemates] Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry, a lot of their success has been built on Chris Kunitz. There needs to be a guy to go in there and do a lot of the grunt work, and Kuni's that type of guy."

Tangradi, 20, was selected in the second round of the 2007 draft. The six-foot-four, 220-pounder is second to London's John Tavares in OHL scoring this season with 38 goals and 87 points for the East Division-leading Bulls. Tavares has 89 points.