Report: Whitney Set to Leave BU

Boston University defenseman Ryan Whitney appears on the verge of foregoing his senior season and signing with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Whitney, the fifth overall pick by the Penguins in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, has agreed in principle with the team on a three-year contract, according to a report in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, citing sources.

Whitney still has time to join the team’s Wilkes-Barre/[nl]Scranton AHL affiliate in time for its playoffs, which start this week. The newspaper says the deal is for the rookie salary cap of $1.185 million annually, plus a performance-related bonus package.

Whitney, 21, blossomed this season at BU, despite the team’s struggles. He led the Terriers in scoring with 25 points in 38 games, and was named All-Hockey East Honorable Mention.

The 6-foot-4, 202-pound defenseman from Scituate, Mass., was on the HEA All-Rookie team in 2001-02, totaling four goals and 21 points in 35 games. His production suffered last season, as he battled an ankle injury all season, though he played through it.

“I’m high on him and the reason is because he’s 6-4 and I’m just shocked at the mobility he has for a big guy,” said former NHL forward Phil Bourque to the Tribune-Review. Bourque, who currently works as the Penguins’ radio color commentator, said he saw Whitney play at this year’s Beanpot.

“He has offensive instincts. He gets the puck and just wants to go north. He’s rough around the edges, so he needs a coach to harness all that offensive aggression. But I was shocked at how smooth he is. I’m careful to use the comparison, but he reminds me of [Hall of Famer] Larry Robinson — a big guy you couldn’t help but notice on the ice.”