Ray Whitney Signs With the Dallas Stars: Two Years, $9 Million

Updated: July 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm by Jonathan Willis

The Dallas Stars made the biggest splash on Sunday morning, signing winger Ray Whitney to a two-year contract worth $4.5 million per season. In an interview with TSN, the 40-year old Whitney confirmed that the Stars’ willingness to do a two-year deal was the deciding factor in his decision to move to Texas.

Age is the big question mark on this signing; in all other ways, the Stars got a bargain.

Whitney tied Marian Hossa and Joe Thornton for 12th in NHL scoring last year with 77 points, ahead of a laundry list of NHL stars earning much more money than he will on this deal. It was one of the finest seasons of Whitney’s career – he even ended up being named to the NHL’s second all-star team.

In Phoenix, Whitney played the toughest available opposition, and while he did end up with a lot of time in the offensive zone he also had superb possession numbers (his relative Corsi, of +12.7/60, was the best on the team) and his scoring rate was off the charts good. There were only five players in the league more likely to pick up a point on any given even-strength shift.

As for the primary question of age, Whitney has a few items in his favour, one of which is durability. He played all 82 games last season and has only missed seven in the past four years. His style of play likely assists in that, as he’s creative and cerebral rather than playing either a power game or a game predicated on pure physical ability, like speed. McKeen’s Hockey described him (in part) this way last summer:

[U]ndersized, finesse winger with tremendous poise and playmaking vision .. remains a wily puckhandler equipped with a keen sense of danger and a tricky shot, even if age has tempered the blistering north-south burst .. strong and shifty in possession .. knows how to create space for himself, aided by superb in-tight puck control .. can be a liability when not scoring however as he becomes static and uninvolved both physically and defensively…

Whitney’s never been known as a complete player, but his ability to retain possession of the puck and gain territory, as well as his high-end offensive output still make him a highly valuable commodity.

It’s probably a little much to expect 77 points again next season, given that Whitney scored just a hair under 60 points over the two previous seasons, but even if his output decreases he’s likely to put up north of 50 points next year (as he has every season since the lockout) and could be good for a near point-per-game pace if things break right.

The more I think about it, the more I like this signing for Dallas, despite the risk. The free agent crop was weak in scoring forwards, and the best ones were going to cost more than Whitney did.

This week by Jonathan Willis